Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

Parents have been pressuring me to help their young athletes not feel too pressured when playing a competitive spring sport. Let me see if I can compete for your attention and provide some information on this topic.

Sports are a great way for children to have fun, stay fit, improve their motor skills and make new friends. But as they continue to play a sport, the pressure to do well begins to build up. 

Sometimes pressure from competition can be a positive tool in teaching how to be a good sport, boosting one’s self-esteem, and motivating a child or teen to practice more to get better in a sport.  

In some cases, however, competition can be very negative, exhausting a child and leading to frustration and burnout, especially if your child is an average or below-average athlete. This can lead to children feeling like winning is the only way to gain respect, to the point where they could actually give up on that sport.

As parents, it is important to help our children deal with the pressures of competition on the athletic field, which can help them deal with similar pressures off the field.

Please remember there’s a fine line between encouraging your children and pushing too hard. Make sure your child knows a game is only a game – but it is also a great way to learn teamwork and to learn how to control emotions while overcoming challenges. Make sure your children also understand that no one is perfect, and we all make mistakes and learn from them and move on.

If your child is becoming more and more anxious about playing a sport, it’s okay to ask your child if they really want to be playing that sport competitively. If not, ask them what they would like to be doing as a sports alternative. If a child has good reasons to leave a sport, give them credit for identifying that need, talking to you about it and finding an alternative solution that will make them happier (and you too).

Remember the goal of playing a sport is to have fun while staying active and not to win at all costs, so that hopefully tips like these will make everyone a winner when it comes to playing spring sports.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.  You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.

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