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Today’s society is one that puts great emphasis on competition. It isn’t okay to come in last or come in second. For many, a true win is when you come in first place. From early childhood, children are taught that it is important to try your hardest, but more importantly to win. The value of winning, is probably the most prevalent in sporting events. Every year millions tune in to see who wins the Super Bowl or which team wins the NBA finals. However, this competition doesn’t just deal with professional sporting events. In fact, the completion begins in childhood. Parents go to their children’s games and they push them to win. They believe that the true determinant of whether or not their child is good in a sport and/or has potential to become a professional athlete stems from how often he/she wins. In this paper, I will express the nature of competition amongst children with relation to their parents as the driving force as well as the negative effects that competitive sports have on children both physically and mentally.
It is easy to think that many parents are merely supporting their children in their sporting events, but often times this isn’t the case. There have been many instances when I went to sporting events, namely wrestling matches, and saw a parent yell at their kid because they lost a match or didn’t make the proper move. In these instances one has to wonder if the sport is really fun for the child or are they merely trying to appease his/her parents. Would the child be able to quit the sport without upsetting the parent? Are the parent’s hoping they can groom their child into a professional athlete? The answer to all of these questions are yes. Almost every week you can google a story about some parent going ballistic at a child’s sporting event and either yelling and/or fighting the coach or getting into an altercation with another parent. According to a survey USA took a poll of 500 parents in Indianapolis, IN in 2001 regarding parent violence in youth sport and 55 percent of parents say they have witnessed other parents engaging in verbal abuse at youth sporting events (Morrison, 2001). In this same survey, 21 percent say they have witnessed a physical altercation between other parents at youth sporting events (Morrison, 2001). Based on these statistics, one can clearly surmise that the parents are taking the sports a bit more seriously than the children. It proves my notion as well as the notion of many others that the parents who push their children too hard in sports have an ulterior motive and don’t merely want their children to be in sports to gain sportsmanship and athleticism.
Aside from the parents and their affiliation with the sporting events, there are dire physical dangers that a child may face in competitive sports. Just recently, there has been great debate on the concussions that youth can face during football and how these concussions can have lasting effects long into adulthood. Roughly half a million ER visits for concussions occurred among 8- to 19-year-olds between 2001 and 2005 (Boyles). And of these half a million, ER visits surrounding concussions, about half were sports-related, and 40% of sports-related concussions involved children between the ages of 8 and 13 (Boyles). These statistics show the seriousness associated with youth sports. However, what these statistics don’t take into account are the youth who go untreated for their concussion. They are often times told by overbearing and highly competitive parents to just shake it off. The dangers associated with this are that these untreated concussions can lead to traumatic brain injuries and even death. Despite the mounting evidence on the physical dangers associated with competitive sports in children, parents continue to spend thousands per year to ensure that their child is able to compete.
For the children who are lucky enough to not suffer serious physical injury during their competitive sporting events, one has to wonder what the constant competition and/or overly competitive parents are doing to them psychologically. As stated before, a survey in Indianapolis has witnessed 55 percent of the parents in the survey engaged in verbal altercations at youth sporting events. But what happens when the child gets home and the parent feel that his/her daughter should’ve made the winning basket or that his/her son should have hit a home run. I find it very plausible that the verbal abuse doesn’t end on the field for some parents. They have so much at stake at every game they are putting tremendous amounts of pressure on their children to perform well. They want their children to win and when they don’t the parents easily find fault in the child’s performance. The child that is constantly hearing how they are inadequate because they aren’t good at making three-point shots or the child who isn’t the fastest person on the track team is made to feel inferior. They soon learn that the competition is more than a fun sporting game. They see it as a way to make their parents proud. And let’s not forget about the rivalry among the athletes. If a parent is constantly raving on a teammate and not their own child that child may develop resentment towards that other teammate. The children aren’t being allowed to have fun in these sporting events, instead they are taking psychological abuse that can have lasting effects into adulthood.
In conclusion, there is great debate about competitive youth sporting events. While it can be a fun activity for many children, it can easily spiral out of control into a situation where winning is more important than having fun. The parents are often times the culprit as they become so consumed with the game and winning that they apply too much pressure to their child and become upset when they lose or don’t perform as well as expected. Many parents are taking their anger out on other parents as well. A survey of 500 parents of student athletes in Indianapolis showed that over half of those polled witnessed parents in verbal altercations with other parents. These verbal altercations not only are embarrassing to their children but it portrays to them that winning is the only outcome in a sporting event. These children’s desire to win become so great they risk their physical well-being and often times don’t inform their parents of injuries they sustained. This is very dangerous as research has shown that concussions in sporting events can lead to traumatic brain injury in adulthood and even death when left untreated. Overall I feel that competitive sports among youth can be great thing as it has many benefits, but when parents spiral out of control with being overly competitive and careless when it comes to the physical and psychological well-being of their children is when these events can take a turn for the worse.
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