In my role as CEO of RINKA, an organisation that actively promotes the importance of fitness being fun, I am often asked ‘Is competitive sport wrong for young children?’. My answer to this is always, ‘no, competitive sport is fantastic for the children who ENJOY it’.
In my opinion it’s all relative. Is competitive sport good for teaching discipline, drive, motivation, skill and technique? Of course it is. It is harmful for children on teams? Absolutely not, provided they are there by choice and love the sport they are playing. Is competitive sport suitable for all kids? No. Not every child has the drive to be the best and that’s ok!
Emphasis must be on enjoyment
However, regardless of whether a child wants to take part competitively or recreationally, the emphasis must be on enjoyment. Why? Because they are children!! Children learn through play. Their minds absorb and process information much more efficiently in a relaxed and enjoyable setting. In today’s world, children begin to experience stresses much earlier in life than they should and sport and fitness should not be a contributing factor.
It is well known now that exercise is the most under-utilised form of anti-depressant and children should be free to benefit from the natural serotonin boost activity offers. It helps them burn off steam from a long day in school, laugh with their friends, clear their minds before homework and sleep better that night. This is before we even list the physical benefits of exercising!
Provide kids space to enjoy fitness
If we want children to develop into adults who don’t see fitness as chore but as a way of life, then we need to give them space to enjoy it!! As parents, introduce your child to many different forms of fitness and let them show you which they prefer. If they turn out to be gifted and competitively inclined then support them all the way, but have the foresight to know when it’s not fun for them anymore. If they aren’t showing signs of interest in any particular sport, let them try dancing, or swimming or simply walking with Mum and Dad!
An activity we look forward to doing at the end of each day is something we all deserve to find.