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I was a gymnast for 15 years, my husband was a wrestler, and we both competed collegiately at Rutgers University. Obviously we are advocates of organized sports. We firmly believe that sports (when balanced with other activities) gives children the opportunity to grow into well-rounded, confident, hard-working adults.
Here are 10 reasons that playing sports can be great for kids...
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- They might love it! My son started playing in a soccer league when he was four. Over the summer, he did a camp where he played 15 hours of soccer in one week. He had soccer practice once a week and a game every Sunday. To some this might sound a little nuts, but he loved it! The only time he has cried about soccer practice was when it was cancelled b/c of rain. When I would pick him up at camp after 3 hours of playing soccer, he would still be running around with a grin on his face. I was so glad to be able to give him this amazing outlet for fun and exercise! Since then, he has wanted to try other sports & activities; & we give him the space to explore those interests.
- There is a way to be age-appropriate. Involving your kid in sports at a young age does not mean that they are going to be taken out of your home and moved across the country to train to be a world-class athlete at the age of five. It is up to you as the parent to keep tabs on what is reasonable for you particular child and their personality.
- It’s okay to push your kids a little bit. We shouldn’t always shy away from pushing our children when they need a nudge. We certainly encourage our children to read, write, and learn math. We don’t think twice about making them go to school every single morning. Yet when it comes to sports (that can also be very valuable to their development) we shy away from regular practices.
- Signing up for competitive/successful teams has benefits. If your child is going to put in the time & effort, why not make sure that they are getting the most out of it that they can? I want my children surrounded by knowledgeable coaches & motivated peers. I want them to learn core skills that will help them down the road.
- There are incredible life lessons to be learned. My firstborn is a perfectionist, like many other firstborns; and he puts a lot of pressure on himself to do well. However, sports have been an amazing learning experience for him and a way to work on those struggles. We are able to talk about the importance of hard work and also losing gracefully. He is able to see first-hand that the more he practices, the better he gets.
- Doors will open to unique opportunities. As a gymnast I traveled to California, Colorado, Puerto Rico, and many other places. I would not have had those opportunities otherwise! Throughout my years, I met world-class gymnasts and was able to learn from them. I was able to gain perspective and maturity at a much younger age than most of my peers thanks to the experiences that sports gave me.
- What else are they going to be doing with that time? Be honest… if your child did not go to sports practice, what would they be doing? In our house, they would probably be watching TV, bickering, or jumping off the furniture. I would so much rather my son be out in the fresh air at soccer practice, running around, and learning the value of teamwork! Sports remain incredibly important as they grow into teenagers as well and put their time and effort into something productive.
- They will not be missing out. I did not go to prom in high school because I was competing at Nationals for gymnastics. While my peers were dancing awkwardly or trying to figure out how to sneak in alcohol, I was tumbling on a four inch wide beam with the best gymnasts in the country. There is not an ounce of me that ever felt like I missed out. I spent my teenage years in the gym, learning the value of commitment and dedication instead of ogling crushes at the mall.
- College scholarships are a reality. Because of my commitment and dedication, I received scholarships to help pay for my college education. I was able to instantly connect with teammates when I headed off to college so that there was less of an adjustment period. The long hours of training can pay off in a very real way!
- Teammates become family. I happened to meet up with an old teammate at the beach this summer, and it was so incredible to see her again. Everything felt the same as it always was, and it was a beautiful reminder of what felt like a different life. We had spent over 20 hours a week together for years, and that bond doesn’t just go away.
I want my children to be the best version of themselves. I want them to be happy, healthy, and successful; and I truly believe that sports teach the life skills necessary to make that happen!