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Sports remain the healthiest and most rewarding physical activities to participants. It bears a lot of socio-economic benefits. In the neo-classical times, sportsmen are among the most well paid across the world alongside executives of the leading multinational and International Corporations. Apart from this economic craze, a large number of parents are motivated to push their children into sports because of the desirable physical fitness, high rate of growth, mental and language developments and social interactions that they are abound to accrue from various sporting activities. As observed by Professor Hanes Johnston, the Head of Sports Department at the University of Hamburg, 65% of parents force children into sports in United States of America. This paper highlights therefore the effect of such forced sports in children.
1.0 Incidences of Parent Forcing Children into Sports in United States
According to the findings of the latest sports and career survey conducted by Jayne Weber, 65% of parents in United States of America force their children into sports. Out of this number, 45% of the children are barely seven years old- the minimum age recommended for entry into low level basic sports that does neither involve much rules nor require much energy to practice. In a separate count, Herald and Gary in their book, "Sports and cognitive development", observe that the trend of forcing younger children into sports is not only a common practice in the greater United States of America but also in other developed nations such as Germany, United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, and Australia in this order. Nevertheless, the trend drastically goes down in the developing world- India, Pakistan, Paraguay, African countries.
2.0 What Motivating Factors Drive Parents to Push Children into Sports?
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In the dawn of the enlightenment age of the 21st Century, prominently marked by Information Technology, parents are highly educated about the invaluable benefits of sports in the lives of their children. Sports are known to promote social interactions among children. As such, "Children make friends, learn basic social rules, develop mutual respect for and cooperation with others, and most importantly nurture the potentials of looming sportsmanship in them" (Herald & Gary, p.134). Presumably, Gerald and Gary deduce that 50% of friends an average adult have were made through play and sports during the times of his/her childhood .
Apart from the social interactions, pediatricians commonly advise parents to engage children in sporting activities as a mechanism to foster healthy growth and development. The medics have noted that there is a strong correlation between sports, language development, growth rate, and general physiological health. In this context, "children who are actively involved in sports learn language at an earlier age, record accelerated growth rates, and are stronger compared to their counterparts who do not participate in sporting activities due to increased metabolic rates" (Herald & Gary, p.136). This phenomenal development makes parents happy in their own rights and extremely proud as successful models.
3.0 Effects of Pushing Children into Sports by Parents
As much as enthusiastic parents are charged to push their children into sports, it is imperative to note that children should be allowed to venture in sports at their own discretion. This is the only way to ensure that the youngsters find happiness and fulfillment in sport. Failure to this consideration, children are bound to suffer numerous detrimental effects from the forcible act of their parents as outlined in this section.
3.1 High Risk of Injury
According to Weber, it is a common knowledge that 75% of minors pushed into sports are barely 7 years of age. The kinesiology scholar articulately uses actual figures and facts to prove that involving younger children prematurely in sports increase their chances of sustaining bodily injury. Although the rules exist in each and every sport, the author explains that children below 7 are still undergoing crucial physical and mental forms of development thus they cannot learn sophisticated sporting rules given that these rules require some degree of mental maturity to master and apply in the right sporting context.
As a result of these sports inflicted injuries, children grow up hating sports because they perceive sporting activities as a source of their physical miseries rather than sources of happiness. In few cases though, severe injuries particularly on the limbs and vertebrae can permanently render children lame or physically handicapped. Even though modern research in the field of sports technology recommends that children players need to be protected by strict safety regulations, American Academy of Pediatrics maintain children should only be introduced into sports at the right age when they are mentally mature to understand and follow rules of the sport.
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In the sports journal, "Children and Basic Sports" the author made yet another scathing revelation that most parents periodically set unattainable sporting targets for their children notwithstanding their younger ages and minuscule physical abilities to succeed in sports. This caliber of parents independently chooses sports for their children neither with the help of experts nor considering the suitability of the sport for children but based on their personality ego, tastes and fashion. These parents' expectations of their children's performance in sports are way off above the ordinary standards because they are obsessed with the dream of soon seeing their children becoming the coveted youngest sports celebrities.
Definitely, these targets are unrealistic for children, particularly when parent fails to choose the right sport for them. In fear of their parents, children struggle far beyond their physical and mental abilities to get to the mark. As a result, they succumb to frustration and worse still lose meaning of sports in their lives. In figures and facts, the journal estimates that over 1,200 children complain of their parents and or trainers over sport related conflicts in U.S every year. Forced sports in considered a violation of children right in various federal states of the United States such as Texas, and the offender is liable to prosecution.
3.3 Loss of Self-Esteem
Apparently, when children are pushed into sports that they never like, cannot best perform or find difficulty mastering the art, they are ridiculed by their interested able senior sporting colleagues who have fully mastered the art of the sport. Hanes in his theory of sports psychology hypothesizes that outright derision, negative comments, public mockeries, and open punishments for any wrong attempt during the practice not only put off children from learning new motor skills but also subject them to outright feelings of worthlessness (p.78). Such mishandled children, lose confidences in themselves; they remain isolated throughout the sporting sessions thus cannot freely interact with their fellow children. If psychotherapeutic procedures are not administered to such children so as to reinstates their self-esteem, then chronic psychological disorders, for instance schizophrenia and agoraphobia, can readily develop from this condition (Hanes, p.102).
3.4 Feeling of Failure
Suffice it to say, most organized sports require a minimum basic cognitive knowledge and psychomotor skills (entry behavior) which will help the amateurs perfectly grasp the newly trained techniques necessary for the mastery of the game. Professor Hanes maintains that the rules and techniques involved in the organized sports such as football, hockey, and basketball can only be acquired and then mastered if the new entrants have the basic qualification: maturity in the psychomotor and cognitive domains of learning that acts as mental and physical prerequisite to the sports. Unfortunately, the world renowned kinesiology expert and a reputable scholar, is categorical that many children below the age of 8 have not yet attained that level of maturity.
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For these highlighted developmental parameters, an average child below the age of 8 (with a deviation of 2 years for fast and slow learners) cannot adequately learn new complicated rules of the organized sports that demand high level of mental coordination. Worse still, their impatient quick result oriented coaches and trainers will continue to teach new sporting concepts and rules of growing complexity. Subsequently, children will develop the undying feelings of failure on their part. Furthermore, the sports journal "Children and Basic Sports" states that the feeling of failure posed to children by wrong choice of sports by their over-ambitious parents and trainers affect their academic performance in schools. "Children pushed in sports are rigid and resistant to learning new ideas, concepts and skill in schools compared to their counterparts who were given liberty to take up sports of choice at their own appointed time" (Herald & Gary, p. 165).
Many children across the world are pushed into sports by their parents at a very tender age. Sports just like any other recognizable area of success in the society, is increasingly gaining popularity and parent are driven by the underlying prestigious fame and celebrity. However, the forcible act, initiated and propagated by misinformed parents and over-ambitious sports trainers respectively, is rampant in the developed world more than the third world countries. Forcible sports expose children to a lot of undesirable detrimental effects such as high risk of injury, frustration, loss of self-esteem, and apparent feeling of failure. The sports experts and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that the timing and choice of sports should be left strictly in the hands of children and that more vulnerable children to such manner of psychological perpetration should be strongly guarded against by the law.
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