The benefits of sports for boys and girls are very well documented, but there’s debate of how good team sports are for children. I am the first to say that if a team sport is something your child is engaged in, happy with, and enthusiastic about, by all means continue. However, the experience that many children have in team sports can be frustrating and harrowing, turning what should be an experience with lasting lessons into a lasting trauma.
Children are happiest at sports when the following factors are present, according to Project Play:
- Getting to try their best.
- Coaches treating kids with respect.
- Getting to play.
- Doing well as a team.
- Getting along with teammates.
- Exercise and activity.
Some children never get to play, and sit on the bench as adults play favorites and politics. Others are bullied by their own teammates. Often times the pressure to “be a team player” leads to keeping silent about behavior that adults need to know about. Or sports are turned into a machine that chews up and spits out kids as the field is winnowed for the most talented. Or parents push their kids too hard. Certainly, it’s not all sports. However some fields are more fraught than others. I doubt you’re going to see a brawl at a rowing match, for instance. In general, the more prestige that a sport has, the more fraught the atmosphere. The goal is not participation, not learning, but a grooming for excellence that few can hope to attain and one that puts younger, less experienced players at a severe disadvantage.
Winning, playing in tournaments and championships, and practice are less a child’s priorities than they are those of the adults. Everyone wants their child to do well, but there comes a time to pull back and ask yourself if it’s for them or if it’s for you. Do they own those medals, or are their accomplishments part of your brag book? Are you seeing bad behaviors from a star player rubbing off on the other kids? Or is your child so discouraged that they just want to quit? Taekwondo might be a good alternative to offer your child, and to try for yourself.
- There is no bench in taekwondo. Everyone plays and everyone participates. Everyone gets a chance to learn and grow.
- Individual achievement. Everyone starts as a white belt, no matter how old or young, and they rise through the ranks at their own pace.
- Martial arts last a lifetime. Not many players get a chance to practice their sport into adulthood. Some will play through high school and college, but unless they enter the ranks of professional sports, they may find that they have lost the sport they loved. Taekwondo is something you can do for a lifetime, no matter where you go, in and out of school.
- Parents can play, too. Leading by example is best, after all, and even adults can use the principles of taekwondo in their lives.
- Self-confidence. It is well documented that martial arts build the qualities that make good leaders. West Point notes that martial arts change how a person views themselves, makes them self-confident, and believe that they can achieve their goals.
Your child will not always have a team around them, or you coaching from the sidelines. The must one day go out into the world on their own. Learning taekwondo can give them a solid footing on which to build their adult lives.