Sports and Your Teen: Whose Game Is It, Anyway?

Are you living your sports dreams through your teenager? Time for a reality check.

Sports and Your Teen: Whose Game Is It, Anyway?

Tuning In

What if your kid doesn't like competitive sports? This is perfectly understandable, but it doesn't mean that she should be permanently benched or relegated to the life of a couch potato. American kids are more overweight than ever, and the reason is primarily because they're getting less exercise. (See Your Teen's Nutritional Needs for more information on fitness.) Talk to her about other physical activities. She may be dying for a pair of in-line skates, or maybe she'd like to play tennis recreationally—without the pressure of being on a team. Look into community programs, or call your local YMCA to see what classes it offers. Regular exercise is a great way to develop a stronger, healthier body, to develop a new skill, and to meet some new friends along the way.

When teens are asked what parents should know about teens and sports, they frequently reply: “Tell them to let the kid choose whether or not to play.”

Hopefully, you've exposed your teen to various types of athletic activities during his childhood, and by the time he reaches high school he knows which sports he likes and what his abilities are.

Yet some parents have difficulty drawing a line between what's best for their child and what they want for themselves. Parents who dream of recapturing athletic glory from their own youth, or of producing a teen athletic superstar, often can't step back and let their teen choose his own activities.

Because high school sports can be so competitive and require so much time (often a couple of hours per day, five or six days a week), it's important that the dream be his now, not yours.

Competition is tough, and if your teen wants to quit—or switch sports or shift over to intramural play—suggest that he sleep on his decision for a while. You may also want to suggest intramural sports as a good alternative. They are still athletic but less competitive.

In the end let him decide on his own. His body may be giving him messages you can't hear, or he may sense bad team “vibes” that you can't feel. This is one of the many times when it's important to let your teen learn to trust his own judgment.

Your teen may just need time off from a sport, and he may come back to it if you're off his case. Or maybe he'll find something new. If you're overly involved, you rob him of the ability to play for the right reasons—because it's fun.