Organized vs Unorganized Youth Sports

Organized vs Unorganized Youth Sports

In a world where cellular phones, video game systems, limitless television options and the Internet monopolize so much of your child’s time, there is nothing more satisfying for a parent than to see their child outside in the fresh air or in a gymnasium setting playing sports and getting some exercise.

Youth sports are a massive undertaking in North America with children getting involved as early as three years old and some playing in organized leagues until they graduate from high school. But are organized sports a little too organized?

Many parents can fondly remember playing league hockey or taking part in tae kwon do classes or being on the local basketball team. However, they also have fond memories of pick-up games of handball against the school wall, street hockey, tag, hide-n-seek or skipping for hours with friends.

The pros of children playing organized sports are legion. Kids learn teamwork, sportsmanship, it builds self-confidence and specific athletic skills and it gets children exercising (in practice and in games). They also learn how to be both graceful winners and losers as well as it can lead to important parent/child time together, a routine and unexpected friendships.Unfortunately, organized youth sports can present negatives as well. Coaches and parents can place too much emphasis on winning evoking favouritism or making the less-talented ones feel left out. Parents might also be over-critical of their child’s athletic performance. Many times it’s a result of their own success or failure in sports. This sort of criticism can put an unhealthy amount of stress on children and the stress isn’t limited to just the kids. There is also the overall expense of participating in organized sports, for things like registration fees, uniforms, equipment and tournaments including transportation and meal costs (for the child and the parent(s) as well).

On the flip side are unorganized sports. The kind of games children will play at a local park or with friends and the other kids in their neighborhood. Typically, playing involves just the price of a ball, hockey stick, Frisbee or a jump rope. When children are active in unorganized sports, they can still learn to cooperate, form strong social skills and experience both winning and losing. But it generally takes more of a direct supervision role from a parent or multiple parents especially when younger kids are involved. Left to their own devices, children may settle into social strata that may involve bullying, ostracizing or exclusion based on popularity, appearance or aptitude in an individual sport. At the same time, parents can be more hands-on in unorganized sports, not having to wait until the end of a game or practice to offer their children guidance.

While some might argue for a return to “the good old days” of less organized sports, it is apparent that both organized and unorganized sports can play a positive role in the development of your child. We believe that by encouraging both (when appropriate) and being aware of potential pitfalls of each (so you can respond accordingly) can help give your child the best that organized and unorganized sports have to offer.

Until next time, Keep Fit & Have Fun.

Hal & Joanne