There is absolutely no doubt: doing sports is healthy for our children. Regardless of which sport and whether they do it competitively or for fun, sports have many health benefits. But, there is a fine line between kids who play sports, and kid athletes. While the first mostly has only benefits and is a perfectly normal hobby, child athletes make sport their main focus in life, while most other things take a backseat. And this brings multiple benefits, but also negatives. From physically to mentally and emotionally, here is how competitive sports impact your child:
Child athletes spend a lot of their time training. This usually means that they are in peak physical condition for the majority of their childhood, which is fantastic news. However, it also means that they are a lot more prone to sports injuries, especially those who train high-risk sports such as gymnastics. Having a bad sports injury can mean being benched for only a few weeks, but it can also end their sports careers or make them physically disabled. Don’t let this scare you: moves might be getting more and more difficult, but safety regulations as well as medicine have come a long way, so most injuries can be avoided or taken care of quite simply. If you have a child who trains a lot, look for signs of overworking, abnormal body formation, tiredness and weakness. If you think there is something wrong with the amount or the way of your child is training, you should consult a doctor – preferably a sports specialist – and seek advice. Also be prepared for a lot of changes if your child suddenly decides to stop training. They might put on a lot of weight or get ill.
As in any competitive sport, training to be the best puts a lot of weight on your shoulders. And children can often lose their heads because of stressing over an upcoming competition, or they might focus so much on being the best that they forget other things in life that matter. If their coach isn’t teaching them healthy ways of dealing with stress and competition, you should make sure you talk to them about it regularly or have them meet with a psychologist. But it’s not all bad: children learning to deal with stress through something they love is a great way to prepare them for stress in life, and the discipline required from athletes will help them a great deal later on. One thing you should be keeping an especially close eye on is signs of eating disorders, especially if your kid trains in a sport where people who weigh a certain amount have an advantage.
Kids will feel a great sense of pride when they see all the cups and shiny sports medals hanging on their bedroom wall. If they are in a team sport, they will develop a very close bond with their teammates and learn valuable teamwork skills. However, they will also be confronted with feelings of failure, jealousy and anxiety, which should all be addressed, and never dismissed as unimportant. Being invested into something means that any significant change – whether it be for the better or for worse – will trigger various emotions. Teach them how to deal with those and watch them thrive and learn.
Sports are unlike most other careers: it is something you devote to early in life, and for serious athletes it can be all they live for. And while this can be amazing, it is important to maintain other areas in life too, such as family, friendships, education (in their field of interest or outside of it) and hobbies. It is not an easy life, but those who persist and achieve heights are always rewarded for all of their hard work.