Kids, Sports and Pressure

McKenzie getting yelled at on Dance Moms

At the gym today a mom was talking about the drama on her daughter’s cheerleader team.  I guess one girl was refusing to do a back-flip and the coach balled her out in front of everyone and threatened to cut her from the team.  Without knowing any of the details or back story, I couldn’t help thinking that’s a lot of pressure to put on an eleven-year-old.

I never did sports as a kid beyond tap and ballet class, but it was pretty low key; everyone got to perform and wear a sparkly costume and the only time the teacher yelled was to say we were talking too loud during breaks.   Surely the girls from my dance class would have been at the bottom of Abby’s Pyramid were we cast on Dance Moms.

My friend has a daughter who won so many competitions in gymnastics there was a great deal of pressure for her to train for the Olympics.  She was really torn because she wanted her child to excel and go for the gold, but at the cost of her childhood?  Olympic tryouts meant training long hours before school, after school, every weekend, summer and vacations too.  What if she got injured?  How would she handle the inevitable bad day when she lost or didn’t do as well as she hoped?

coach yellingBoys have been dealing with sports pressure since the dawn of time it seems.  I remember going to my big brother’s baseball games and thinking that the coaches and fathers seemed like lunatics, standing up and shouting at little four-year-olds like it was the World Series instead of the pre-k league.

Here in Texas football is king and I know several people who have gone with the “redshirting kindergarten” trend, which means they hold their sons back a year from starting school so they will be bigger and stronger for the football team.  This gives them an edge over the competition (those other menacing five-year-olds) thereby getting their sons scholarships and attention from the coaches of the elite teams.

I thought kindergarten was for, you know, learning.  I guess they are learning it is more important to win than to read?

My daughter is five.  I want her to play sports for all the benefits they can offer  (physical activity, learning teamwork and self discipline, building confidence) minus all the crazy stuff (putting the sport ahead of family time, spending thousands of dollars on private lessons to beat out the competition, coaches publicly humiliating kids as a motivation technique.)  I don’t believe every kid deserves a trophy just for showing up, but I don’t believe they should desire therapy in the off season either.  Hopefully, I’ll find the right team for her.

What do you think about youth sports and pressure?

Lisa (c) 2013 Lisa Traugott.  All rights reserved.  No portion of this blog, including any text, photographs, and artwork, may be reproduced or copied without written permission.



15 responses to “Kids, Sports and Pressure

  1. I have real issues with people who screa at kids and stuff especially over sports which build so many important life skills! they ruin it nad turn these kids into future thems more often than not. It’s so wrong and child abuse!

  2. This is relevant to me because I have a four year old who turns 5 in August. He is very tall and big for his age, so we were thinking about holding him back a year so he would not be the youngest and would have a better advantage like you said in sports. But we have come to a different opinion, and are going to put him in kindergarten in fall, because his teachers at pre-K are insisting he is ready and if we wait he would be bored stiff in kindergarten once he got there. I want him to enjoy physical activity (but NOT football), but not at the expense of enjoying school in general. I wouldn’t want him getting yelled at either, that seems a bit extreme for little kids sports.

    • Figuring out what’s best for your kids can be so stressful! We had a tumultuous time figuring out what was right for our daughter, but now she’s happy in her school and is in the right spot for her. Good luck to your son in kindergarten this fall! It will probably be the right spot for him too 🙂

  3. Sports here in Canada are very different and I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we don’t have sports scholarships, only academic scholarships. From what I’ve seen so far (a few years of soccer and now hockey) with my daughters, is that sports is about having fun. I hope it stays that way as they get older.

    • Everything gets a little skewed when you add money into the mix, eh? I agree that sports should be fun and helpful to the child and leave the intensity to the paid professionals.

  4. Actually, the real issue I have with sports at school is it misses so much out. No weights, no endurance, and a whole stack of sports are never even attempted.

    I also think there should be more emphasis on teaching fitness skills – a whole different issue.

    But too much pressure? Naah – I’ll blame the parents for that one.

    All through school, the focus is on ball sports.

  5. Most forget the part about the sport being for the kids – not fulfilling their dreams or expectations.
    My boys will never be screamed at or put down for doing their best….even if that doesn’t measure up to some.

    • When I was an actress I used to sometimes see “stage moms” drag their kids to auditions and yell at them. Most moms seemed cool and let their kid decide if they wanted to continue or not. But when a parent forces a kid to do things to extremes (piano, sports, intense academics, etc.) without allowing the child to enjoy other things like playing and friends, it becomes more about the parent’s issues than the kid’s best interests.

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  8. I hate team sports, my kids will have to speak up LOUD that they want to play on a team. I’ve never had a good experience with a coach, and I want to protect them from the crazy. I like scouts for the “inch deep and mile wide you can try out anything” kind of approach. I hope BSA changes its anti-gay policy soon, then I won’t feel guilty supporting BSA by registering my son and buying popcorn.

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