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It’s no secret that physical exercise is an important part of children’s physical development, and playing sport is a great way to build confidence, burn energy and learn new skills while building healthy bones, muscles and joints.
Sports also teach important life skills such as teamwork, overcoming obstacles and taking pride in accomplishments.
But taking pride in those accomplishments isn’t always easy when the focus is on winning. Competitive sport is something most children will participate in at some point and some may do so more willingly than others, but is it good for kids?
Competitive youth sports are often characterised by participants who actively seek victory and excellence in organised leagues or official events.
They might take the form of competitive team sports such as football or netball, or be individually focused like athletics, swimming and gymnastics.
Children who play competitive sports typically possess a higher skill level through specialised training, often in just one, or a small group of sports. The intensity is notably higher, as the primary focus is on outperforming opponents and securing trophies or recognition.
Recreational sports are pursued primarily for leisure, fun and physical activity. Participants in recreational sports may vary in skill levels and the atmosphere is more relaxed, emphasising enjoyment and social interaction over high-level performance.
Though competitive sport does have its benefits in developing team and leadership skills, discipline and focus, it’s largely agreed that young kids under the age of eight are by and large not ready to engage in sports competitively.
At this young age, children are still learning what activities they enjoy and building fundamental movement skills, where they would benefit from a safe and supportive environment. They may still be figuring out how to enjoy sports altogether, with some children requiring a gentle, positive push. The extra pressure of competing may undo some of this work.
It’s more beneficial at this age for kids to focus on learning and growing when playing sports, having fun learning new skills and setting the path for good sportsmanship than to focus on winning or losing and being measured on their performance.
For older children, competitive sports may be introduced but it’s important to note that not all children will be ready and not all children will wish to partake at all – even if they love sport.
Contact sports shouldn’t be played at primary school age in order to avoid the risk of injury. Specialising in just one sport at a young age may limit holistic physical development, increase risk of injury and create apathy for that activity over time.
Competition can have a lot of nuances which can be difficult for children to understand. Even for older kids who love sports, it can be hard to comprehend that sometimes giving their best won’t always achieve the result they hope for. It’s a valuable lesson but it’s incredibly important that these “losses” don’t negatively impact a child’s relationship with sport and cause them to quit altogether.
If you start to see some of these signs, ask your child about their experience. Do they like their sports team? Are they still having fun? Is there something else they’d like to try?
When your child stops wanting to attend a sports club, or no longer looks like they’re enjoying the experience it might be time to rethink their involvement.
The good thing is that there are so many sports and activities for children to try – just because they grow tired of one, it doesn’t mean there isn’t another sport they’d love to play. An after-school club that allows this level of exploration between activities can help them to find a new sport to love.
Here at Premier Education, we love delivering a wide variety of extracurricular sports and activity clubs, aimed at encouraging children to find a sport that they enjoy.
Some kids will want to venture into the world of competitive sports, perhaps because they have a particular affinity for it, their friends are joining a team, or they simply want to test their skillset.
And there are many benefits with playing competitive sports, namely learning leadership qualities, social skills, building self-esteem, teamwork learning and experience losing.
As parents and educators, it’s then necessary to shift the lens through which children view competitive sports. It’s important to point out and encourage the distinction between “competing to win” and “competing to excel”.
Competing to win encourages students to outperform others, essentially being “the best” on the track or field. Competing to excel is about surpassing a child’s own goals and performing for the self-achievement they feel when trying hard.
The benefits of this are boosting a child’s self-confidence, esteem and pride in accomplishing goals as well as promoting a greater sense of mental well-being all around. It also minimises negative side-effects that can be associated with competitive sports such as jealousy of other competitors.
The motivation to succeed comes from within rather than a desire to beat others and takes the emphasis off winning and losing.
Even with primary school sports, it can be difficult to make children understand a mindset of achievement based on their own goals, especially if they see others winning trophies, medals or even just praise. It’s then up to you to support and remind them of their own achievements.
It’s not uncommon for kids to feel disappointed when they don’t win, and often they not only feel a sense of personal failure, they can feel sad if they perceive they’re disappointing their parents or guardians too.
Praise your child when they put in their best effort, even if they don’t win the race. Point out when they show a good bit of teamwork, help out their team members or show great sportsmanship at the end of a match.
Focus on the importance of hard work over the end results, celebrating small improvements and skill-building. And most importantly, keep reminding them of the importance of having fun!
Whether your child is interested in sports activities for personal development, to make new friends or just to fill some free time after school, our activity professionals are highly trained in delivering sport in a safe environment with no competitive pressure.
Getting your kids into after-school clubs is the ideal way to help them face new challenges and receive regular exercise focusing on well-being, growth and fun.
Our after-school sessions feature a huge range of sports and games, from classic favourites to brand-new experiences they are sure to love. Each coach has received high-quality training to make sure that every session is educational and every child feels included regardless of skill set.
Is your child discovering a love for sport? Perhaps they just want an extra chance to let off some steam once the school day is over. If this is the case, find out which clubs are running at your school today – we look forward to inspiring your child very soon!