Children’s Development and Competitive Sports

Over the years there has been discussion among child development experts on the impact of playing competitive sports on children. The intense focus on high performance, the physical toll that it places on young bodies and the overall pressure to win has increased exponentially on young children.

But the question remains, “Does playing competitive sport impact the development of your child?”

Competitive sports should be approached in a way that primarily focuses on the child having fun, and encouraging them to put in the effort to improve their own performance consistently over time.

Creating situations where children are driven to be the ‘best’ on their team and where mistakes are handled with over the top criticism can cause a toxic environment that hinders a child’s progress. These behaviours should be avoided at all costs.

However when coaches and parents work together to ensure the right attitudes are adopted by the children and parents, then being involved in competitive sport is an exceptionally valuable experience for children to have as they grow.

Here are six reasons why competitive sport can be great for developing kids:

1) Physical fitness improves from the activity
2) Children learn self-discipline and the value of self-improvement
3) They learn how to handle the thrill of victory and agony of defeat
4) Confidence levels can improve
5) It will widen their circle of friends and acquaintances
6) Competitive sport is fun

If you or your child are unsure which sport they’d like to try then a sports camp, such as camp Australia, can be a great way to trial sports, at minimal costs, and see which sport interests your child the most. If you’re not in Australia, look out for sports camps in your local area that you can get your child involved in.

Let’s look at each of these benefits of sports for kids in more detail.

Improving Children’s Physical Fitness

As anyone with an Xbox at home would know, video games and the internet in general have made children more sedentary. This change in lifestyle is leading to worrying levels of childhood obesity and generally a decline fitness levels in our children.

Playing competitive sport has the immediate benefit of adding more activity into the child’s day-to-day schedule, but it also helps establish long term behavioural changes. Children see the direct benefit of improved fitness having an impact on their performance and this reinforces habits that can be carried into adulthood.

Self-Discipline and Improving One’s Self

Kids are perceptive, and they innately understand the feedback loops that competitive sport offers by way of performance quality. If they are routinely not having success or they see teammates able to execute certain skills that they don’t possess, children will work harder to try and improve their own performance. This is where supportive parenting and good coaching plays a vital role in helping the child understand that with hard work and focused practice, they can get better.

Having a support system from the adults involved in the sport generates an environment where children feel comfortable and confident to pursue self-improvement. This has the by-product of improving their self-discipline – children learn that to improve, they will need good coaching and support, but ultimately they will need to put the effort in to get the desired result.

Handling Winning and Losing

In our daily lives as adults we face situations on a regular basis where we have to cope with setbacks and successes. Being able to handle the natural ups and downs are vital life skills for everyone.

Playing competitive sport as a child is an exceptional way of learning how to deal with this particular life experience. Most children playing sport will at some point win a championship and have to shake the hand of the losing team and congratulate them for their effort. It’s likely they will also experience being on the other side of that equation.

Being magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat are valuable life skills that children can best learn through playing competitive sports growing up.

Confidence Levels Improve

There is something about the nature of competition that instils in children a level of confidence, irrespective of the outcome.

This confidence can make its way into other parts of the child’s life, whether it’s school or social settings. The competitive aspect of sport creates a small level of stress and pressure that helps children to develop confidence in their own ability and provide them with the skillset to handle these situations.

Wider Circle of Friends

Most children develop their social circles from school and with children who may live close to their home. School friends are important for children because they provide consistency, and they develop alongside each other over time.

Playing competitive sports, particularly in teams, has the effect of introducing a new set of friends into a child’s social circle. These children have a shared experience and enjoy a similar hobby. This is a different kind of friendship, because the children must learn to work together to achieve shared desired outcomes.

Adult coaches can often be a slightly different kind of authority figure, and add to the child’s circle of acquaintances. Their influence will be different to that of parents and teachers because they do hold an authority position, but the children also associate these adults with fun and often hard physical work. It’s a unique dynamic that aids in children’s relationships with adults.

Playing Competitive Sport Is Fun

Finally, and most important of all, playing competitive sport is fun for children. You can often see the uncontrolled joy in their faces when a child kicks a goal or achieves a personal best. Children just love playing competitive sport and when asked what they most like about it the answer is almost always, “Having fun with my friends”.

That’s the healthiest development aspect of competitive sport – kids having fun with each other. It’s entirely possible for children to derive many of the same positive developmental benefits in other activities like music or art, but when approached in the right spirit, competitive sport can help children learn many skills and develop a number of diverse and valuable personal characteristics that helps people become well-rounded successful adults.

Author's Bio: 

Gaurav Kumar has been a blogger and digital marketer, one of the fastest growing custom design crowdsourcing platforms. Over the years, he has been helping small businesses and startups improve website design and SEO strategy, content marketing and user experience.You can engage with him on Twitter here @digitalmid.