Exercise is a natural need for a child. Later though, one must consciously work to maintain this need. After all, exercise greatly determines our physical, mental, and spiritual health.But, as the saying goes, it may be too much of a good thing. Quality and quantity plays an outstanding role here, just like in many other areas in our lives. Written by Ildikó Szántó.

Parents are primarily responsible for the physical activity of their child, and for letting them practice the ideal form of exercise, at regular intervals, without overexertion. Naturally, children don’t always listen to their parents, even though it’s in their best interest. Nonetheless, parents are highly influential in their decisions.

Personally, I feel fortunate to have parents who always knew what was best for me, and who always tried to guide me in the right direction, even though I didn’t take their advice hundred percent. Despite letting me try many different sports to strengthen my mind and body, I didn’t like any of them, and I didn’t like to be in a community either. It’s fair to say that I was an antisocial child. Then one time I saw the performance of the group of my future coach, and I knew I wanted to be part of that, so my parents let me join immediately. Sometimes they protested the competitions, the training methods, the diet, because they weren’t sure that these benefited me. Still, they supported me, since they saw that I was happy. During the years I spent at fitness-fitKID, sometimes I haven’t listen to them, even though I should have, of course. To this day I don’t regret those decisions, as despite being harmful, these experiences allow me to help others today and offer advice.

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As mentioned earlier, parents have a key role in the present and future quality of life of their child. Regular physical activity is essential for the perfect integrity of body, mind, and soul. At 4-5 years of age, children can usually follow instructions and to concentrate for a bit longer, so training and trying different sports can begin.

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It’s worth letting the child try a number of different sports to find out which one suits them the most and which one they like the most. Even if they’re talented in something, if they don’t like doing it, parents shouldn’t force it on the child. The child may achieve glorious results, but they may get seriously hurt in the process. Succes might be priority for some, of course. It also happens that a child realizes that they excel, and thus they grow to love that particular sport. But they might hate what they’re doing all their life, only continuing for the success or for their parents, never truly happy.

In this case they might not even realize what’s wrong with their life. I dare say this because I’ve met several such „forever dissatisfied” people in my immediate environment. However, opportunities shouldn’t be outright rejected, as a child can take to anything, really, but it’s best to be careful. It may also happen that the child loves what they’re doing, despite not being good at the particular sport at all. In such a case one must find the golden middle way: letting the child do what they like, without exposing them to crushing failure. Failure is an essential component of development, but the extent of it, and how one processes it, is important. In this case it might be better to guide the child towards hobby sports rather than competition. Willpower and perseverance can greatly increase performance, so we should only let go if we see that the particular sport leads the child to the wrong direction. I can only be grateful that my parents saw things excellently. They were patient about trying, yet they never forced anything on me, and I think they were truly happy when something was to my liking. And they were always there for me, and they still are.

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Although I’m currently dealing with hobby sports instead of competitive sports, now I’d like to write about youth competitive sports, which can have positive and negative effects on youths’ body, mind, and spirit. A huge role can be attributed to the coach, the parents, and if necessary, the sport psychologist, in which effects will dominate.

Expectations must always take into account the child’s individual abilities, psychological and anatomical features, gender, age, and biological development.

  • Doing sports regularly can both reduce and increase stress. On one hand, it helps relieve elevated stress, deal with conflicts in the family, and challenges in school. It can prevent the development of mental disorders like anxiety, depression, or addiction. On the other hand, the pressure to perform and the stress caused by overload can disturb the athlete’s mental equilibrium. To prevent this, the coach’s professional knowledge and personality comes to the fore.
  • Regular physical exercise has a personality-building effect. Its great advantage is to help us cope with the challenges of our lives. It boosts self-confidence and the power of will. It encourages perseverance, discipline, and hard work. It increases determination, courage, and it greatly enhances the ability to concentrate. Nonetheless, it can disturb one’s self worth if expectations are not properly set.
  • Nowadays, body dysmorphic disorders are a serious problem. Exercise helps self-acceptance and the development of a healthy body image and an ideal body. It’s nevertheless important to keep an eye out, as athletes might be suffering from body dysmorphic disorders or eating disorders, especially in case of the aesthetic sports (like gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, aerobics). The development of these are predominantly driven by the expectations towards the athlete.
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  • Regular training can both improve or worsen a child’s grades. On one hand, it structures the pupil’s time, they use their smartphone less, they spend less time with TV and the computer. On the other hand, due to growing demands in school, if they have hours of training every day, the child can get exhausted and lose motivation, which can lead to abandoning sports. Therefore it’s advisable to plan the child’s schedule so that they have the time to study, train, and relax, too.
  • Regular trainings, especially team sports, can reinforce social relationships and the ability to cooperate. They can also help a child (and later, the adult) to build relationships outside of trainings easier, to be able to adapt better, and to be more open toward others. However, top-level sport can interfere with the development of normal social relationships. This becomes dangerous when sport becomes an addiction, the sole focus of the child, who therefore can only maintain shallow relationships, even in best case.
  • Too much exercise should be avoided, as it can lead to overtraining, which not only hinders development, but also renders one more prone to injuries, which can lead to serious problems in adulthood. Strict diets, coupled with overtraining, can hinder development, and may cause hormonal problems, not all of which are reversible.
  • Unfortunately, injustice is common during competitions, something I’ve experienced myself. Such situations can have serious and lasting psychological impact on a child. However, they can also strengthen our character so that we can deal with similar cases in other areas of our lives. Injustice to a child sometimes hurt the parents more. My parents later admitted this, and said that every time they’d rather I quit competitive sports. But I never gave up, as outcome didn’t matter to me, and my parents supported me. These problems have definitely toughened me, and even though the injustices of life hurt, I can handle them properly.
  • The benefit of regular trainings is that the need for exercise is more likely to remain, thus reducing our chances to become overweight. However, for someone who has suddenly stopped doing sports, the chances to become overweight is much greater compared to those who never did sports. Especially if the child has been on diets or has been deliberately losing weight for competitions (sports with weight classes).
  • An athlete often gains great qualities. Their patience and tolerance towards certain people and situations increases. They become more persistent in achieving their goals. Their pain threshold – physical and mental – rises. Their can concentrate better. They become more relaxed and more balanced by relieving accumulated stress during training. They learn how to behave under elevated stress. They become more confident. In me, sports also strengthened love. I loved fitness, performances, my coach, my team, and now my aerobic classes and my guests so much that I have more love to give others.

Thus, childhood competitive sports have drawbacks, but great advantages as well. If I could go back in time and decide, knowing the successes and failures before me, I’d do almost exactly the same all over again, otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am now. And I know that I’m on the right path, and I wish everybody to feel the same.

You can read the author’s previous articles here, here and here.

Sources: here and here.

Source of featured image: pxhere.com

Translated by Ádám Hittaller

11090cookie-checkCompetitive Sports for the Youth, and Choosing the Right Sport for Them