Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Reflections on competitive sports for kids Part 1

When it became clear that Andre was serious about pursuing his love for badminton, I had the typical Singaporean mum concern - would he be able to cope with his studies?

This question is a tough one to answer. On one hand, it's true that sports training does take up an enormous chunk of time. When he was preparing for competition, his schedule was so packed that each day, he barely had enough time to go to school, go for training and finish his homework. His leisure time was negligible.

On the other hand, I found that competition actually increased his motivation level. Despite having less play time, he was more conscientious in his homework, complained less about studying and got everything done with minimal stalling. This is in line with a study done in the US which found that students in the school football team actually achieved better grades during the football season than off-season!

I attribute this seemingly contradictory result to the simple fact that for many kids passionate about sports, the sport grounds them and gives them a purpose in life. If you think about it, for a 9-year-old child whose life evolves around school, tuition and enrichment classes, even with play time, it can get pretty monotonous and aimless (few kids can be inspired by working towards an exam). Competitive sports, in particular, adds a fixed goal and that gives them something to work towards. For Andre, it provided the motivation to get all his work done properly so that he could concentrate on his badminton.

A friend of mine shared a similar anecdote. Her daughter was in the school volleyball team and due to the heavy time demands, her parents decided to pull her out to focus on her studies. To their alarm, her grades actually slid, despite having more study time. Realising their error, they promptly reinstated her in the volleyball team. According to my friend, by pulling her out the sport, it actually removed her focus in life and affected her other areas as well.

On one occasion, I had the opportunity to speak to the boss of the badminton academy that Andre trains with. As a coach and ex-professional player, he has seen many kids grow up in the sporting arena. Apart from the many obvious health benefits, sports provide other intangible advantages. He shared that kids, boys in particular, are at their most dangerous age from 14-17 as that's when they are most susceptible to peer pressure and have sufficient independence to rebel.

According to him, sports is a great way to keep them on the straight and narrow as it instills all the positive values of discipline, teamwork and determination. In addition, the boys will usually keep company with other fellow athletes, especially those they train with and this friendship tends to be more wholesome, bound by their common interest in the sport.

Of course nothing in life is ever black-and-white. It's not all roses and sunshine - there are also many challenges in letting your child enter competitive sports, as I've come to discover. I meant to cover everything in one post but found that I had too much to say! So look out for Part 2.


Puzzled by Puzzles! said...

I agree with the coach. Doing something u like keeps u focus and also helps u to reduce stress in life.
I once watched a Taiwanese documentary abt how a rural mother had to "harden her heart" and sent her delinquent son away to a very strict lived-in type of Tae Kwon Do school. He was playing truant and hanging out in arcades and getting all the bad influences. In the end, it shows that the boy benefitted from the strict regime and the discipline instilled by the sport.
It's great that Andre has found something that he is good at and and enjoys the challenge too. :)

monlim said...

Sandy: Yup, there's something about going through the discipline of sports that adds to character. I think the SG government is starting to put a lot of focus on sports which is great, but I hope it doesn't degenerate into something exclusively aimed at achievements again!

eunice said...

If he's passionate about a sport, I say go for it.I feel it gives a child a more balanced life. Sean is now doing a lot of sports and I worry that his school work may suffer. But luckily, here it's not so stressful and he has time to do what he likes. Andre is lucky he's got a mum who understands that sports play an important part of school life too.

Good luck Andre!

monlim said...

Eunice: Thanks! Balancing school work and sports is one of our biggest concerns. I agree with you that if a child is passionate about a sport, it provides excellent balance. We'll just have to keep monitoring the situation :)

Jo said...

Hey Mon,

Good post & timely as we have been busy for the last 2 weeks with our eldest daughter who was taking part in her school swim meet. This is her first competition so we did not know what to expect. The idea was to let her try it out and see if she was keen on the idea of training more seriously in a good swim club. I am also rather concerned about balancing studies and sports training..especially when I hear that swim training is very very time consuming.

I don't know how she is going to cope with her studies if she goes for more training...from once a wk to 3 to 5 or even more times a wk! Plus will she have time to continue to pursue her music as well...

Hubby tells me he stopped competing and training in sec sch to concentrate on keeping his good grades but ironically his grades slid after that ...but that was many years ago when studies were a lot less demanding.

So...we are at a crossroads in making an important decision which will involve many hours of commitment..not only for our daughter but plenty of support from the parents as well.


monlim said...

Jo: Looks like you're in the same boat as me! We're also trying to balance the sports and studies and same like you, Andre has piano lessons too. To move from 1x a week to 5x is a huge jump - maybe try 3x a week first? That's what Andre is doing and it hasn't affected his studies... yet.

It's a constant juggling act - just keep it flexible and go with the flow.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...