Man Bicep Mom – Are we forcing our children to compete?

Showing off the man bicep!

At the beginning of each speed skating season, my dad would ask me if I was sure I wanted to skate. “Are you sure you like it? Are you sure you want to compete?”

My answer was always yes, but I’m sure that if I had said no, my father would have let me quit. And my father was very involved in the sport.  He eventually became the head coach of my speed skating club.

I speed skated because I wanted to, because I loved it, not to please my father.

Now, you know, I’m a big advocate of competitive sports for kids, but sometimes I wonder how many of our kids are doing their sport
because they want to and love it.  Or are they just doing it because we want them to and it looks good on their college application?

In one of Cori’s high school classes, they did a little survey asking them if they liked their extracurricular sports activity.  Cori was the only one in her class who liked her sports activity.  We were both amazed.

Now, I suppose, there is nothing harmful about strongly encouraging your child to participate in a high school team sport…lots of character building benefits and it does look good on the college application and the exercise is really good for them…unless they hate it.

If your child really doesn’t like their competitive sport or any sport, please, don’t force them to compete.  The detrimental effects far outweigh any
benefits.

As the parent of a junior tennis player, I had plenty of opportunity to witness children being forced to play by their parents.  Hey, if you’re good and make it to the pros, there’s lots of fame and fortune.  That makes for lots of pushy parents.

At least the kid is the one who wants the fame and fortune I guess...

So here is a sad story about parents forcing their child to play a competitive sport.  This family really wanted their children to succeed at tennis.  Before they pulled their children out of all clinics and hired a coach to teach them exclusively, I taught the youngest
daughter in a clinic.  She was six or seven years old.  She definitely had talent, great hand eye coordination.  She was a sweet kid and I enjoyed teaching her.

One day, I found her doing handsprings, round-offs and cartwheels on the tennis court.  I told her that I was impressed; she was really good. She said, “I really love gymnastics.  That’s what I want to do, but my parents won’t let me.  I don’t want to play tennis.  I don’t like it.”

I told her to tell her parents that she didn’t want to play.  She said that she had, but they said they didn’t care and that she was going to play tennis.

Well, this sweet, talented little girl is now seventeen or eighteen, a senior in high school and still playing tennis.  But she hates it and it’s obvious.  She cheats, has tantrums on the court and curses at her opponents and coaches.  Her behavior is unbelievably rude and outrageous. She makes her coaches miserable and at every event they are deluged with complaints about her.

I contend that this girl is miserable. She hates tennis and doesn’t want to play. She acts out on the court, venting all her rage and frustration.  I think she wants someone to yank her off the court.  I think she’s hoping her coaches will bench her or her parents will make her stop because of
her bad behavior.

So why do her parents continue to force her to play?  Rumor has it that she plays so that she can get into an Ivy League college.  But this
one may backfire on the parents.  College tennis coaches have been known to pass on discipline problems.  They don’t want to commit to a four-year headache.

And I ask you – is that Ivy League college really so important that you would want to make your child miserable competing in a sport they didn’t like?

And so I repeat – if your child really doesn’t like their competitive sport or any sport, please, don’t force them to compete.  The detrimental effects far outweigh any benefits.

P.S.  I know one family where the child didn’t like their sport and the parents let them quit.  The kid tried some other sports and activities and then, a couple of years later, decided to go back to the original sport.  This time the child loved the sport and excelled at it. Everyone was happy!

(P.P.S. The Man Bicep Mom is so right on! In our family, Drew played tennis but didn’t really enjoy it. My mom kept telling her to stop playing if she didn’t like it. When Drew finally decided to quit, she was super happy with her decision and found other hobbies that she loved like music. She stayed active though and came with me to lift weights each summer that I was home during college. Drew did start playing tennis again during high school and found that this time she really enjoyed it (and kicked some major butt while doing it!). PLUS during all that time she wasn’t wasting doing something she didn’t like, Drew fell in love with music and found out that she is an AMAZING saxophone player! She is now a Music Education major at Indiana University (who still remains very active!). So not forcing Drew to play tennis seemed to have turned out pretty darn well…)

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Posted on October 19, 2011, in Man Bicep Mom and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I definitely agree with this! My boyfriend has a seven year old son, who we are encouraging to try any and all sports/activities he is interested in but he is allowed to quit at the end of a session/season if he doesn’t care for it. At his age, it’s already becoming apparent which kids are playing because they want to and which are doing it because their parents are telling them to. Sad!

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