Playing sports is an American tradition and there are many benefits to be gained by participation. As parents, we can use sports as a means to bring out the best in our children.
By stressing the fundamentals of fair play, good sportsmanship and putting forth one’s best effort, we can give our children the message that sports can be fun.
Sports provide a place for kids to learn how to get along with their peers and how to play by the rules. Sporting activities also teach children how to win and lose gracefully. Sports help develop skills and a sense of fair play.
Competition is also part of the winning and losing game. Competition can encourage growth and push a child to do his best. But although competition can be a very strong motivation, there can be negative consequences when too much emphasis is placed on being the best.
If a child can’t enjoy each achievement on its own merit, the ultimate goal may not be worth reaching. It’s difficult for some children to benefit from a sports program that’s very competitive. The gifted few become the stars, while the less able (and probably the average) sit on the bench.
This sends a negative message to these children: “You’re not good enough.” When the main emphasis is placed on winning, we may fail to recognize and appreciate the accomplishments our children make along the way to success.
Children often have every waking hour scheduled with activities, leaving little or no time just to be children. Parents need to provide a haven for kids to grow at their own pace, with plenty of time for free play and fantasy. Parents need to help their children realize they are valued for who they are, not what they can do.
One alternative to organized sports programs which is available in some communities is a non-competitive program that encourages children to learn skills and have fun playing the game.
A model program includes concepts that reduce competition by:

  • Rewarding and emphasizing team play, thus de-emphasizing individual performance.
  • Giving referees more of an instructional role.
  • Limited sideline participation by parents and coaches.
  • Eliminating scorekeeping, thus no winners and losers.
  • Letting each child play equally at different positions.