Sports and Competition: Are We Pushing Our Kids?

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If you have young children in sports, you know the deal. Game day. The pressure to win. The desire to be the best.

It often happens as early as four or five years old, as parents begin to enroll their children in rec leagues. Later, if they are not part of a travel team, there’s worry they won’t succeed.

Yet, this desire to push our children too early may be impacting their enjoyment of sports. According to a poll by the National Alliance for Youth Sports, 70 percent of kids in the United States stop playing organized sports by age 13 because “it’s just not fun anymore.”

That’s not to say parents shouldn’t sign their kids up early for sports. The benefits are enormous: from better health to opportunities for socialization. It just means it may be time to rethink how sports programs are designed. That’s one of the reasons the JCC, an agency of  The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, recently introduced a new program that incorporates learning the basic skills in a clinic environment, in addition to playing the game.

“I was finding that many kids who were in sports leagues lacked many of the basic skills to be successful. They often grew frustrated. They lost confidence in their abilities and began to not enjoy the game,” says Rebecca Chinsky, senior director of recreation and JCC Maccabi at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC, an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

This new program teaches everything from kicking, passing and goalkeeping in soccer to dribbling and shooting in basketball. Kids even learn the rules. The more they learn, the more proficient they become and confidence rises.

“In an era of sport specialization, at the youngest ages, finding the balance is not easy. A modest schedule of year-round activity that focuses on basic skills that are common to most sports promotes an active lifestyle. It also promotes the skill development necessary to compete at a higher level once the sports that they love are chosen in adolescence,” explains Wendell Lee, youth wellness coordinator at the JCC.

One of the biggest fans of the program is Esther Jandorf. Her son Ian signed up for the youth basketball league at the JCC this past winter. As the shortest kid on the team, Ian often had trouble making a basket. But thanks to Coach Lee, what could have been a negative sports experience turned positive.

“Wendell was so calm. He didn’t yell. He just guided my son. Ian often would stay late after clinic to practice. And Wendell stayed late watching him until he was done,” says Jandorf. Click to read entire article.

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The Associated Contributors

The Associated Contributors are writers from The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

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