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Should I Force My Child to Play Sports?

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This past spring, we all felt the loss of team sports. We couldn’t watch them on TV, participate in them, or sit on a hard bench while our kid practiced one for two hours on a Thursday night. We sacrifice for our kids who thrive by playing on a team. But what about the other child—the one who isn’t as interested?

Many parents believe that playing a team sport is extremely valuable for kids. Important life lessons are learned and character is developed. But what if your child is miserable?  Should I force my child to play sports? Here’s your answer.

1. In a team sport, kids learn about teamwork.

Teamwork is so valuable for kids because they learn that it’s not all about me. It’s not about what I can do, what grade I got, or what place I came in; it’s about us. We learn cooperation as we take turns in different positions and make plays that involve multiple people. And we work hard together to meet a common goal.

But kids also could learn teamwork in a scout troop, setting up camp and cooking dinner over a fire. They could learn teamwork as they join a musical theatre production, building set pieces.

2. In a team sport, kids learn how to win and lose.

We naturally love to win, and we hate to lose! My kids barely can get through a board game without tears at some point. When kids play a team sport, they play so many scrimmages and games that they get used to winning and losing. And even better, you have a whole group of people in the same boat, on your same team, winning and losing alongside you.

But kids also could learn sportsmanship as a member of the debate team, or in the marching band, participating in competitions where they win some and lose some.

3. In a team sport, kids make friends.

Being on a team together forges a special bond. Aside from the sheer amount of time you spend together, you (literally) share blood, sweat, and tears. You cheer each other on, pick each other up off the ground, and pat each other on the back. You have a group of friends who, even though you might have very different personalities, have this one significant thing in common.

Many parents struggle with the question “should I force my child to play sports” because they forget the alternatives. Kids also could make friends volunteering at the local animal shelter or getting a part-time job at a friendly workplace.

4. In a team sport, kids learn to face challenges.

When you’re on a team and the coach says, “Everyone, go run a mile,” you do it. You don’t want to be kicked off the team for refusing and there’s the element of healthy peer pressure. You accomplish things you never thought you could before, like coming back from a losing streak, making an impossible goal, or facing the top-ranked team in the league.

But kids can also face challenges being a part of the ROTC, pushing themselves to reach their potential through physical and mental obstacles and games or by joining the LEGO Robotics Team, taking on engineering challenges at competitions.

5. In a team sport, kids get physically fit.

You may be thinking that’s all well and good, but my kid needs to get physically fit, and that’s not going to happen on a debate team. Fair enough. But if all those other needs are being met with the debate team, could you find another way for your kid to get physically fit?

There are so many exercise possibilities beyond soccer and baseball. Kids can join the YMCA to swim or lift weights, regularly mow lawns and shovel snowy driveways, or learn to skateboard. One of the best ways my kids exercise daily is jumping on the trampoline in our back yard.

What’s your take on team sports? What alternatives have your kids found?


What is your favorite way to exercise?

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