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When sport can be bad for kids' mental health

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When sport can be bad for kids' mental health

In sports, learning to lose and pressuring to win are two different things.

Sport can create a healthy sense of competition with children in particular. Whether it is learning to work with another gender or leaning to cooperate with peers, it is natural for children to compete from an early pre-school age.  Competition is in fact part of sports culture; children often idealise their favourite athlete and watch them as they compete.

This can have so many positive benefits, such as learning how to lose, to cooperate and to accept rejection and move on from it. Yet, what if competition takes over the game or becomes an integral part of playing? In this case, it can be problematic for children’s mental health.

There are many reasons a game can become more focused on winning rather than playing. Children are naturally inclined to compete and games are usually made to include a competitive factor.  Over-competitiveness in sport can also come from the parents who are usually on the sidelines, some of which put pressure on their children to win. Coaches can also bring in a sense of over-competitiveness by pushing the idea of winning and allowing it to become prominent part of playing. Naturally, some children will lose and others will become great players.

Children who do not know how to lose can become frustrated, sad and angry. This, if not handled correctly, can have negative consequences on the child’s mental health.

Another consequence of over-competitiveness is a decline in sports participation. Some might feel unhappy about losing; others will feel they will never be good enough and thus not return to the games.

Even outside sport, there can be a culture of competition in schools. In extreme cases, that can manifest itself in cases of children committing suicide due to bullying. Badly run sports activities can sometimes be platform for a negative type of competitiveness that exacerbates such problems. Sport should not add to children’s stress; it should be an outlet for frustrated kids to express themselves through physical activity and games. It can be a great way for outcasted kids to feel welcomed and part of a team.

It is important to forget the trophies and allow children to lose. What is more important, is to foster a sense of accomplishment. Research has shown that to increase kids’ self-worth, is to help them improve their skills and ability to succeed in life. When sports activities are run carefully, they can be a vital tool for doing that.

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Monday, January 22, 2018 - 14:06