We all have our own hopes and expectations, our own reasons for encouraging our kids to play sports. Maybe we want our little athletes to enjoy the game as much as we did at their age, or maybe the goal is to get some good old fashioned fresh air and exercise. The bottom line is that we know sports are a great way for our kid to spend their time, and they sure seem to enjoy swinging a bat, too.
As you might imagine, children have their own reasons for stepping up to the plate, and a lot of the time they are in it for the same reasons that we are. A recent survey by the Health, Human Performance and Recreation Department at Baylor University surveyed 6,000 kids 6 to 8 years old who were involved in softball and baseball, among other sports programs, asking them why they like to play sports. Here are some of the responses:
1. Fun. It should be no surprise that the number one reason kiddos take to the field is to have fun. Of those surveyed, 62 percent of youngsters responded that they played mainly “to have fun.”
2. Old friends. The second most frequent response to the survey was “to be with friends,” with 11 percent of kid athletes reporting that what they like best about their sport is that they get to spend time with friends on the diamond.
3. New friends. The third most common response, comprising 10 percent of responses, was “to make new friends” through sports.
4. Exercise. 7 percent of kids said they play the game “to become physically fit.”
5. Skills. A handful of kids reported wanting to play sports in order to improve their skills while learning new ones.
Lastly, winning. Way down at the bottom of the list of reasons why kids like to play baseball, softball, and other youth sports, is the desire to win. Only 2 percent of children surveyed responded that they played to win, far less than those who want a good workout!
The fun factor in youth sports ought to be common sense. While we might register our kids for Little League initially with the hopes that we’ll get to see them round the bases with a smile stretched across their rosy little cheeks, some parents still wind up getting more caught up in the competitive spirit by the end of it.
Unlike many adults, competition and winning are not how most kids measure success on the diamond. For youngsters, fun is the name of the game. Sure, winning can be fun too, but that’s not why kids like to play, and it’s important to keep our kids’ interests in perspective when cheering or coaching their next ball game.