Why Don’t Kids Want To Play Sports?

By CoachDeck contributor, Helen Brunt

As we’ve covered before, the benefits of getting young people into sports are manifold. Plenty of parents are lucky. Once they’ve won the initial struggle to drag their child off the sofa and onto the sports field, the child has the time of their life and is eager to go back. For other parents it’s a different story. The same struggle happens over and over again, with the children clearly hating the sport they’re being forced to play. This can be heartbreaking as a parent, and many feel an agonizing struggle between their child’s health and their happiness. Which would be better in the long run – giving your child all the benefits of playing a sport, but sacrificing their short-term happiness? Or letting your child stagnate on the sofa but saving them from misery? In many cases, if you can get to the bottom of precisely why your child is resistant to sports, the whole issue can be avoided. So why do some children hate sports?

They Hate The Sport You’ve Chosen For Them

Kids can be tough to figure out. They go through phases of loving and hating things [1]. As a parent, you are probably by now well aware that what’s top of the charts in your child’s esteem this week will probably be discarded next week – so when it comes to things like hobbies and sports, it’s tempting to make them stick at it in the hope that a passing fad will develop into a genuine passion, despite the fluctuating approval-ratings of said sport along the way. However, some kids just genuinely do not like the sports chosen for them. Forcing them to continue with sports they really do not like is likely to engender a deep-seated hatred of all sports. Instead of forcing perseverance, perhaps make them stick at it for a few weeks. If they still don’t like it, try another sport. There are plenty to choose from, after all [2]! Perhaps team sports aren’t for them, and they’d prefer something more solitary like track or hiking. Perhaps they’re more into contact than batting sports. Give them a chance to discover what they truly want to do.

It Hurts

Exercise hurts. As adults, we’re able to see the long-term benefits of temporary muscle pain. Children are creatures of more immediate concerns. You are well aware that the pain of exercise is only going to do your child good in the long run, and that they’re unlikely to do themselves any serious harm (particularly if you’re well covered for any accidents!). Your child only knows that they feel pain while exercising and they don’t much like it. There are ways in which to make exercise less painful – including warming up properly and using things like heat packs. However, there’s no substitute for simply being fit enough to do a sport without pain. Enjoying the sport is the best way in which to withstand the pain of doing it – but for some the initial pain eliminates the chance of any enjoyment. It may be an idea to either engage in some basic low-level fitness with your child to help them attain a fitness level good enough to reduce their pain, or moving them to a less intensive sport until they feel ready to really go for it.

They’re Being Bullied

Few things bring out the animal in kids so much as sports. If this is channelled correctly then sports can be a great thing. Unfortunately, for many kids playing a sport can become a perfect storm of bullying. Forced to wear unflattering kits in an adrenalinized environment with plenty of pressure piled on turns many kids into altogether too tempting targets. The competitiveness of many team sports can also encourage bullying, as kids which are perceived to be ‘letting the side down’ are castigated. Homophobic, sexualised, and misogynistic bullying is particularly common in some sports environments – even among adults [3]. This can not only seriously reduce participation in sports [4], it can also have long-term psychological consequences which may scar your child for life [5]. If you discover that your child is being bullied in their sport, it is imperative that the problem is solved as quickly as possible, and/or that your child is removed from that environment.

[1] Heather Larson, “Kids’ fads and crazes: ‘But Dad, everybody has one!’”, Parent Map, Apr 2011

[2] Parentmap, “Finding the Right Team Sport for Your Child”

[3] Melissa Davey, “Homophobia in sport: Study reveals abuse still widespread”, The Guardian, Jul 2014

[4] CPSU, “Homophobic Bullying in Youth Sport”

[5] NHS Choices, “Bullying may have worse long-term effects than child abuse”

Protecting Our Kids from Drug Abuse in Sport

By freelance contributor, Helen Brunt

People who are involved in amateur and professional sport alike know what it means to persevere, prevail, and reinvent to achieve the ultimate goal and rise above the competition. Even at an early age, the desire to obtain victory and succeed in sport as both team member and individual athlete is irresistible for those with a competitive fire burning within, and as the skill level and talent for young athletes continues to raise ever higher, more and more adolescents are feeling the pressure of making it into the team or getting on the podium. Sometimes the urge to succeed is so great that kids sacrifice time, energy, and health, and the path to attainable victory through performance enhancing drugs becomes inevitable. As parents, teachers, coaches and peers, it’s important to do what we can to encourage a balanced lifestyle where the temptation for victory does not override the integrity of the sport itself.

An Increasingly Troubling Issue

Drug abuse in sport is hardly a new phenomenon, and its impact has changed the social landscape of scandalized sports like professional cycling which is still recovering from the throes of doping and misconduct. But the idea that it could affect the seemingly innocent lives of young athletes is almost too unbelievable to comprehend; this is a time of life where sports should not bear the kind of pressure which drives such a level of desperate measure. But performance-enhancing drugs in and of themselves are not necessarily a “desperate measure” for some, making them even more potentially dangerous; for some individuals, they may be perceived as simply another advantage to be gained. During an age like adolescence and teens where drugs in general become easily involved, it should never be assumed that youth who are pursuing their passion on a competitive level will always resist the temptation to up their game or bulk up their body image.[i]

Understandably, the short-term and long-term effects of taking performance enhancing drugs can be devastating. Hormone imbalance, blood clotting, high blood pressure, liver damage, and other ailments can occur as a result of taking steroids or creatine.[ii] But it is not only performance enhancers which pose a threat – even over the counter medication can present a risk. The number of teens abusing painkillers is becoming increasingly worrying each year, not only leading to long-term organ damage but also functioning as a precursor to illegal drugs like heroin which provide a strong alternative. As young athletes train harder, eat less, sleep less and work longer hours, their bodies – which are already undergoing a difficult transformation – experience considerable strain. Painkillers quickly become a common turn-to for many youngsters, which not only cause severe addiction and internal damage but mask symptoms of physical injuries which could permanently hinder their performance in sport.

Opening up Discussion

Obtaining medication and performance enhancers for teens is easier than many parents might think – and because youngsters know that using is not permitted, they are careful to keep signs of use hidden where possible.[iii] This applies to drugs in any context, but it also makes one question how the dialogue and ideology which surrounds sport – particularly at an early level – can be changed to help combat this. It’s not only important to have open, honest discussions about abusing drugs which address legitimate concerns and consequences, but people must examine the balance between healthy competition and too much pressure. Without question, sport will always be extremely pressure-driven, especially at an early level for those seeking a prospective career in the field. And while winning a victory can never be undermined, it is the integrity of the sport itself – team work, effort, practice and fun – which should be allowed to flourish rather than be overshadowed by an obsession for victory.[iv]

Sadly, drugs will always play a role where the younger population is concerned, just as they will in professional sport. But the best place to start is at home, in the classroom, and the locker room. It’s important for kids to be able to ask questions and receive informed answers as well as different perspectives (the you-must-fear-drugs-because-they-are-BAD argument doesn’t always prevail) and feel comfortable asking them. Most importantly, it’s essential that kids understand that while sport may be the be-all-or-end-all in their lives, it’s not worth the cost of their own health, and that there is more to life than achieving victory itself.

 


[i] FDA.gov. “Teens and Steroids: A Dangerous Combo”. Accessed December 22, 2014.

http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm373014.htm

 

[ii] MayoClinic.org. “Performance-enhancing drugs and teen athletes”. Accessed December 22, 2014.

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/tween-and-teen-health/in-depth/performance-enhancing-drugs/art-20046620

 

[iii] ParentsHelpingParents.info. “Find the drugs”. Accessed December 22, 2014.

http://parentshelpingparents.info/start-here/find-the-drugs/

 

[iv] KidsHealth.org. “Taking the Pressure Off Sports Competition”. Accessed December 22, 2014.

http://kidshealth.org/kid/stay_healthy/fit/pressure.html