Are Children Often Forced to Give Up Childhood in Service to Sports?

The New York Times recently investigated whether or not children often were forced to participate in sports for a large portion of their developing years. In an opinion editorial, David McGlynn, the author of a fatherhood memoir, recounted his feelings about his son’s experience with sports and how one decision made all the difference in his son’s life.

 

McGlynn recounts his own childhood as a part of the sports community. The current professor at a Wisconsin university spent most of his developmental years preparing to be a competitive swimmer. He swam for his high school team as well as a more competitive team during his high school years. He earned a scholarship to college where he remembers being beaten on a regular basis by swimmers who would go on to win Olympic medals. McGlynn recalls his frequent practices, long hours spent traveling for competitions, and sore muscles from all the physical work he put in. He also recalls greatly enjoying every minute of his time spent swimming competitively. Because he enjoyed his experience so much, it was difficult for him to admit to himself that his son, a budding basketball player, seemed to be miserable.

 

After having several discussions with parents who had raised children who participated in competitive sports, McGlynn gave his son the option of quitting the basketball team. He suggested that they spend their weekends and free time participating in activities that they actually enjoyed like kayaking or skiing. After some consideration, McGlynn’s son did quit basketball in favor of more enjoyable activities and his dad noticed that the decision was the right one. No longer was McGlynn’s son angrily contemplating mistakes he made in games or practices, but he was now enjoying life and building character in non-competitive activities. McGlynn went on to publish a memoir encouraging Americans to investigate the true nature of their children’s involvement with sports and if that involvement is adding value or hindrance to the family’s life.