Team Sports and Children’s Fitness

Have you signed your child up for after-school sports leagues and lessons?

Former Olympian Silken Laumann, author of Child’s Play believes that there is a lot of be gained in those leagues and clubs. “You have a coach, and so you have that skill development, and hopefully you have a great leader in a coach who really cares about the kids on his team and really gives them a sense of belonging and a sense of self-esteem.  I know that the goal orientation of sports is very powerful.  Teaching kids to work towards a goal is really exciting for them as well.”

According to recent surveys, about 55% of boys and 44% or girls between 5 and 14 are involved in organized sports, but Silken adds that when it comes to fitness levels, organized sports are not the be all and end all. “Playing a sport once or twice a week is great, but it’s not enough physical activity,” explains Silken.   “Kids have to be active every single day and be moving their bodies, and that’s why it’s so important that they get the physical activity in school and that they get it in an unstructured way by running around the house and being outside.”

Diane Neumark-Stzainer, author of I’m Like so Fat agrees that when it comes to fitness in our children’s lives, we often equate it with organized sports and activities. While those have a role to play, she believes it’s also important that children learn to integrate fitness into their daily lives in simple ways, and applaud them when they do. “It’s really important for parents to provide positive reinforcement for their children for the activities that they are doing that they may not be recognizing. That can be walking a dog, that can be walking to school.  They can bike over to a friend’s house, they can get up a few minutes early and do some stretching.”

Diane says “if a child is intimidated by getting involved with a soccer team or something of that sort, think about ways to integrate physical activity into their normal daily activities.”

All in all, one of our goals as parents should be to provide opportunities for our children to stay fit and be active, for health’s sake!


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