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Are Organized Sports Good Exercise for Kids?

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: KJ Fitness,Ink • updated: 3/9/2009

Organized sports sometimes get negative marks, but doctors say they provide tremendously beneficial exercise for kids both physically and mentally.

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    Organized Sports and Children

    Hang out in a local park on any given weekend in the U.S., and you’re bound to see throngs of parents in lawn chairs cheering on their pee wee sports players from the sidelines. While many parents consider organized sports healthy exercise for kids, others aren’t so sure how group sports can benefit their child.

    Overly competitive parents and coaches who push too hard may give organized sports a bad name. But according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, organized sports are a largely beneficial type of exercise for kids.

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    How are organized sports beneficial for children?

    Besides being great physical exercise for kids, organized sports help children foster a host of healthy mental attributes. Organized sports participation teaches kids perseverance, self-discipline, and cooperation while helping them develop good social skills. By providing something to look forward to and get excited about, organized sports can also motivate a couch potato to start moving, occupy an idle child’s time, and relieve stress.

    Whether a child chooses a group sport like baseball or an individual sport karate, he will reap major health benefits from his participation. Namely he will develop healthy exercise habits that last a lifetime since children who get regular physical activity are far more likely to be healthy in their adult life.

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    The Pitfalls of Organized Sports

    Organized sports are beneficial for children only when a sports program provides a positive environment. Instead of focusing on winning, a good program will provide a relaxed atmosphere that encourages play as a form of entertainment and recreation.

    An overly competitive environment can be detrimental to a child’s development. If she is constantly admonished for mistakes, a child can develop a negative attitude about herself. A good organized sports program will teach children that mistakes are great learning tools and provide us opportunities to get feedback and, therefore, improve ourselves.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics cautions that organized sports may not beneficial to very young children. While more and more parents are starting their children in sports at a younger age, it’s important to consider whether or not your child is ready.

    Very young children typically are not ready for organized sports. If they have not yet developed the motor skills they need to participate, they can become frustrated by an inability to perform. The feeling of failure associated with this lack of skills can be damaging.

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    Parental Involvement in Organized Sports

    When it comes to making organized sports beneficial for children, it's up to parents to make that happen. In addition to evaluating a child’s age and skill level before enrolling him, there are other things parents can do to ensure that their child has a good experience with organized sports:

    • Let your child pick the sport he wants to participate in.
    • Check out the program and the coach. Make sure the coach has the expertise to create a positive environment.
    • Give your child good support both when he succeeds and stumbles in sports endeavors.
    • Provide your child with the proper safety equipment and gear for his or her sport.

Organized Sports and Children

The "Organized Sports and Children" series will look at how organized sports are a beneficial form of exercise for kids and how parents can support children in sport endeavors.
  1. Are Organized Sports Good Exercise for Kids?
  2. How to Choose the Right Youth Sports Program for Your Child