Sunday Books: “Completing The Circle”

Today is another look at the wonderful book “Completing The Circle” by Thomas Poplawski and available as a free ebook.  Today’s chapter is about “Children and Sports: Finding A Balance”, which is an area in which I have some personal experience with my own children and what we have found to work and not work.

The hurried child syndrome has extended to the world of sports. In a world where children often played pick ups games unsupervised by any adult for long periods of time, the sporting realm has now turned into teams organized and run  by adults, with adult rules of play, uniforms and other realms of organization that used to be relegated until the high school level.  This I can attest from my own personal experience.

Poplawski writes the following, which is also something I have personally seen as a pediatric physical therapist:

The growing muscles and bones of young children are not strong enough for
the rigorous, repetitive training and practice regimens used by adult athletes. When
these regimens are imposed on children, problems arise. Overuse injures are so
common that “pediatric sports medicine” is now a recognized medical specialty.
Tendonitis is a very common problem among child athletes. Stress fractures, caused
by repeated overtaxing of the bones that are not yet fully calcified, are also very
common. To make matters worse, almost a quarter of all children with athletic
injuries are—according to a study by the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission—
encouraged by parents and coaches to continue playing

Poplawski writes that there is no proven advantage of a child being involved in an organized, team sport until the ages of eight or nine, and I would argue that really the age for organized sports, which used to be about the age of middle school, really is most suited for those 12 and up.

Sports really impact family life.  It is difficult to see when your child is younger and doing something organized once a week how this can grow over time into more and more practices and competitions or games.  Many children start out playing once a week or so, and then if they are a “good” player, this blossoms into more teams, traveling teams, more practices, more competitions.  If you have young children, I urge to think about when you start a child in a sport and how fast this might progress if your child is a good player.

The other issue about sports is one that Poplawski brings up and that is that in the past, when children did play sports, they often did not play the same sport the entire year.  This is often the case now, and goes back to the physical stresses the young and growing body incurs in this.

Children need a lot of unstructured time, probably much more than what the typical family gives their children.  Children become used to going, going, going and often will not settle into any kind of meaningful play if one is out of the home every day  of the week.

However, sports can play a truly important role for those entering puberty.  Poplawski writes:

For teenagers, sports and physical activity are very important. They tend to
have a surplus of energy that needs to be channeled. When those energies can find
no focus, the three temptations of “sex, drugs and rock and roll” become overly
seductive and the dangers of teenage depression and obesity rear up. Sports and
physical disciplines such as dance, eurythmy, and martial arts, as well as drama
and music are ideal at this time. Unfortunately, with the current emphasis on
early sports, many young people are burnt out by the time they reach high school.
Having played a hundred soccer games a year before they set foot in high school,
they are ready to take a rest. The high dropout rate in youth sports means that
when young people really need this outlet in their adolescent years, many have
already given up on it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released the following statement in 2000:
Those who participate in a variety of sports and specialize only after reaching
puberty tend to be more consistent performers, have fewer injuries and adhere
to sports play longer than those who specialize early.

If you live in a neighborhood and have children below the age of 12, I urge you to take the lead and organize some neighborhood get togethers to play kickball or baseball.  Make balls and other equipment available.  This can be a wonderful alternative to the organized competitive model and great introduction for grades-aged children to play.

Many blessings,

2 thoughts on “Sunday Books: “Completing The Circle”

  1. Great post Carrie! Like pretty much everything else, mainstream parenting tends to overdo anything their children are “good at”. Everyone wants their child to be a “star” in some area – sports, music, science, etc. A little good is never enough. Many, perhaps most parents want their child to be a prodigy of some kind, to show what they are “going to be when he grows up” and to concentrate on excelling at that one thing.

    Parents, and by extension teachers, who can embrace the general concepts of reincarnation can come to understand that what we perceive as “gifts” in children are talents, skills and interests worked on and acquired in a previous life. For some, these are the areas they have intentions for in this present life. But for many, there will be a sort of culmination and then on to new adventures in learning and growing as individuals. We are not always here to use our strengths. We are often born with an intention to strengthen our weaknesses.

    As in every other aspect of parenting (and education) is it always a tightrope walk. There are the opposing dangers – not encouraging and assisting a child enough to allow him or her to reveal and work on a destiny that involves their childhood and youth versus overdoing it and creating a harmful imbalance.

    There are certainly true “prodigies” and other significant talents. As parents and educators, we should encourage and assist in an age appropriate way while also requiring that the child take some time for interests and activities that might not come so easily or “naturally” to him or her. It is also important that the child still remain part of the family circle with responsibilities toward family and friends and not the sole focus of everyone else’ attentions.

    Childhood and “junior” sports can certainly be beneficial to the extent that the adults involved put aside their own egos and expectations and just be there to help children have fun, be healthy and learn social skills and good sportsmanship.

    A bit of common sense needs to season the soup, so to speak!!

  2. Hi – I believe it is very important to have balance for our children, but one problem with waiting to get very involved in sports is that with some sports (especially team sports), if you wait until puberty to focus attention and effort on that sport, it is often too late to be a part of most teams because the players are already excelling. I waited until junior high to get involved in sports and by then, it was hard to find a team I could play on that was at my low level. I did get a chance to do swimming and track (two sports that they never cut people from in my high school). I loved volleybal, but I was cut from the team.

    I think the situation is sad, but in my experience it was and is still reality. Is anyone’s experience different than mine?

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