Suzie got an expensive soccer uniform for her birthday. Her mom told everyone how good she was. One beautiful day, Suzie refused to go to practice. Her mom called her again and again, “Come on Suzie. You’ve got to play soccer today.” “I don’t want to play soccer anymore,” Suzie answered. “You’ve got to play; you’ve got to play,” her mom kept saying. A neighbor hearing this conversation just shook her head, as finally Suzie got into the car sobbing. Suzie is six years old.
Sports can be a wonderful pastime for children, as long as they are fun. I played sports as a child, sometimes on teams, at other times for the pure fun of it. When sports cease being fun for children, parents might ask if they have lost their focus. What is the motivation for children to keep playing?
Parents living in our highly competitive society need to reflect on whether sports enhance or inhibit healthy growth patterns in their children’s lives. How much time is left for other childhood enjoyments if a coach demands prolonged practice time? What does it say about parental priorities when parents spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars on sporting uniforms, equipment, and sports activities for their young children? What are the consequences of taking children out of state, almost monthly, to participate in athletic tournaments? Are sporting activities primarily for children or for their parents? What effect does it have on children if they and their parents skip Mass on Sunday to play sports?
As parents plan for fall activities and events, it’s worth taking time to reflect on children’s sporting activities to make sure that what they encourage their children to do is the best thing for them.
Order Fr. Hater’s new book, Common Sense Catechesis: Lessons from the Past, Road Map for the Future.