MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Youth Athletic Service says on a given weekend between November and June, thousands of young athletes, boys and girls from 4th grade to 9th grade play basketball in Minnesota.
That's just one sport and one weekend. Opportunity to participate in youth sports isn't the problem. Why play and what it means to play can be.
Parent Hopes and Dreams
Brenda writes: How do I know they are choosing the sport for them and not so I can live out my hopes and dreams?
We took that question to U-of-M Sports and exercise psychologist...Diane Weise-Bjornstal who says, "the parent needs to rethink their hopes and dreams. I think the hopes and dreams that I would encourage parents to think about with their children relate to values and kind of person they want their child to be.
the way that they play the game is much more important to me as a parent and I hope many parents see it that way-much more important than their actual success by outward standards.
A survey of 10-thousand kids ages 5-to-14 done by Michigan State University shows 65-percent of kids say they play sports to be with their friends. The same survey says 71-percent say they wouldn't care if no score was kept in the game.
Which brings us to Luke's question: Are kids being pushed into competition at too young of an age versus learning the values of teamwork, respect, and community through sports?
We asked University of St Thomas Psychology professor John Tauer to tackle that one.
Tauer responds, "I think competition is truly a double edge sword. There are a lot of values through competing both winning and losing. At some point you ask what is the goal, what are we trying to communicate to kids because it's okay if they walk home and say I love my teammates, I respect my coach, I've learned a lot and we've got 7th place. We need to get better."
Mindy is concerned about overuse of joints and wonders if doing too much too soon, especially after an injury will affect their growth. Dr. Heather Bergeson of TRIA Sports Medicine picks up this question: "So in some cases yes. If there's been an overuse injury to a growth plate like little league shoulder or gymnast wrist and the athlete continues to play through that pain or before it's appropriately healed. The there can potentially be some long-term growth disturbances but usually those will heal without complication."
Here's a hot button issue for parents. Samantha writes: if your child wants to quit a sport but you see potential would you pressure them to stick with it? Weise-Bjornstal, "I would not pressure them to stick with it. Potential has to be paired with passion." Tauer, "Number one, asking them questions, seeking to understand why do they want to quit? Sometimes it's the coach or not enough playing time. Get them to think about how you would earn more playing time. Are you willing to step away from sport knowing it might not be an easy road back into it."
Mike has a question about specialization: how do you encourage kids and parents to play more than one sport? Dr. Bergeson: "I think it's actually a good idea to have a variety of sports but you want to make sure you're picking the right sports. You don't want to play tennis and be a pitcher. Both are overhead sports and strain the shoulder." Weise-Bjornstal: "I think most parents mean well but they're not at all well informed and not informed by the right people about the benefits of early sports sampling and diversification."
One last piece of advice: Tauer: "Be excellent and be a little better than yesterday and as long as I think our kids embrace those two messages those are the things they can hold onto for the rest of their lives."
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