Forced Athletics: How Children Are Set Up For Failure
Updated: Jan 23
Parents should not force their children to participate in sports because it negatively impacts development and mental health.
Forcing youngsters to participate in sports can have serious consequences for their mental health. Rather than encouraging youngsters to be active and interested in sports, it may have the reverse impact, preventing them from enjoying their sporting experiences.
Parents tend to overestimate their children's abilities.
Every parent wants to believe their children can accomplish anything and be good at it. This emotional investment in their children may blind them to the fact that their child may not be gifted in sports. Therefore, they set their children up for negative experiences.
For instance, I was forced to participate in basketball as a child. I didn't want to, and to be honest, I was terrible at it. Even when I voiced my disinterest in participating, I was ignored. My teammates ridiculed me for not being good enough, and I was forced to practice for greater periods of time when I wanted to do other things I actually loved. I despised these situations and began to feel resentment towards sports and, most of all, my parents.
I believed they didn't care about my needs or interests because they were so frequently ignored.
I was put in countless humiliating situations because I was not good at a sport but was forced to continue practicing it. These problems could have been averted if my parents had not pushed me so hard to participate in sports. I developed a negative sense of self as a result of my own poor performance because I felt I was not living up to the expectations placed on me by my parents to do well and keep playing the sport.
There are thousands of children who, like me, are pushed to do things they don’t want to or are awful at and suffer as a result.
When parents consistently push their children, their children may begin to associate acceptance or praise from parents or teachers with their own self-worth, resulting in stressed, anxious, and depressed children pushing themselves just to hear a simple "Good job" or "I'm proud of you."
When these kids make mistakes, it can have a devastatingly negative impact on them because they believe that how much praise they receive determines their identity or even their worth. They start to judge themselves too harshly. Which can impact the development of social skills and emotional regulation.
In martial arts, which I was also forced into, I would be so critical of the little mistakes I made. I would feel terrible about my mistakes and would hate myself for them. I’d be sitting there at nine-years-old thinking I was worthless because I couldn't do what the other kids were doing or I wasn't living up to expectations and making my parents proud.
I firmly believe that these experiences significantly inhibited my emotional and social growth since they made me too self-conscious and critical of myself. In addition, I think that being forced to participate in sports played a key role in the development of my anxiety and depression.
I frequently withdrew from my peers and friends because I believed I wasn't "good enough" or that they didn't like me. My constant feelings of judgment and the pressure to live up to the expectations placed on me prevented me from having many wonderful experiences that I may have had if I hadn't been forced into athletics.
This only serves to highlight the detrimental effects that forcing children into sports can have on their mental and emotional health.
Some may argue that forcing kids into sports might set the groundwork for a healthy lifestyle and help them manage stress, but the truth is that all the advantages that kids are supposed to gain from sports are diminished if they don't like the sport. Instead, it may stress them out and utterly inhibit kids from participating in sports or anything else related to them.
Due to these factors, forcing kids to participate in sports can have an adverse effect on their development and result in anxiety, low self-esteem, sadness, and feelings of unworthiness that can last a lifetime.
Ultimately, no amount of "experience" or activity is worth the mental and emotional burden a child has to bare.