If you asked ten different people this question, you would probably get a variety of answers. Those who had good experiences in team sports would most likely say yes while those who had bad experiences would likely say no. For parents who didn’t ever play team sports, it’s sometimes more difficult to decide. US journalist Heywood Broun stated, “Sports don’t build character, they reveal it”. Many parents would agree with this famous quote.
Playing team sports fosters many positive character traits including pride, achievement, good attitude, courage, mental strength, consistency, and persistence. Positive results seen by parents and coaches include pride in a job well done, striving toward excellence, working together with others toward common goals, treating others with fairness, a positive attitude, and hopefully success. All of these results and character traits can lead to a lifetime of accomplishments and success.
Locally many high school and college teams have shown these results with their athletic teams. Two area soccer teams have been in the news for their achievements this spring and last fall and winter, Jefferson Forest High School http://www.bedford.k12.va.us/jfhs/athletics.htm and Lynchburg College http://athletics.lynchburg.edu/sports/msoc/index.
Jefferson Forest Boys Soccer won their first ever State AA Championship against their long-time foe Blacksburg High School. Lynchburg College Men’s Soccer played for the National Division III Championship, losing in the title game against the #3 team in the nation after defeating the #1 and #2 teams. Those are great results in an area where soccer has not always been the sport of choice. Lynchburg has long been a baseball town, in part because of the Lynchburg Hillcats minor baseball team http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/index.jsp. Another factor is that baseball is considered the All-American sport.
Nationally, soccer has gained in popularity too. One factor in this gain in popularity is that the US teams are getting better. The US Women’s team played for the FIFA World Cup championsip this year, losing to Japan in the final game http://www.fifa.com/womensworldcup/index.html. As soccer becomes bigger on the horizon in America, the local teams will probably improve even more. You can bet that a lot of local boys playing soccer have set their sights on playing at Lynchburg College.
With all of these positive results, why would any parent not want their child to play team sports? For many parents, the time involved is hard to find and cuts into family time, the cost of playing at a higher level is prohibitive, they don’t want their children exposed to the pressure, and they don’t want their child to feel like a loser or their child’s feelings to be hurt by other kids. To be good enough to play at high school and college level, kids often have to start young and play intensely. The kids who are average or non-athletic don’t get as much playing time. Sometimes kids who start playing at a young age burn out before they are old enough to play at a higher level. Club or travel teams involve a lot of sacrifice on the part of the child athlete and his family with hours of travel for practices and games, high cost for high end equipment, and the emotional pressure to win at any cost. In very competitive high school districts, the fun can be sucked out of the sports for the average athlete and her parents as they watch only the elite players get playing time or even make the team. Additionally, children who play only one sport for many years often suffer more repetitive motion injuries that can last many years beyond the glory years.
So, is the final answer yes or no for organized youth team sports? For most parents, this decision is best made by taking into account the individual child and his or her goals. You know your child better than anyone else. Is he able to balance the time needed for sports with his more important academics? Will she be able to take the pressure involved? The child’s desire and ability to play should be weighed against the cost to the family in time and money. Chief Justice Earl Warren said, “I always turn to the sports pages first, which record people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures.” Although this may be slightly exaggerated, it’s true that the winners always get better coverage than the losers. If team sports can work into the family plan for your child, your child will likely learn a lot of life lessons.