May 222014 33 Responses

Force Your Kids to Play Sports

Some decisions are too important for a child to make.

Good parents do not allow their children to choose if they:

  • go to school
  • eat
  • sleep
  • go to church
  • obey

While children should be allowed to make many choices, there are some decisions which are too important for them to be trusted with.

Sports fall into this category. (See: Why You Should Never Yell at a T-Ball Umpire)

How can a 7th grader be entrusted with such a life-altering decision of whether or not they engage in athletic competition.

Too much value is found in sports for a a child’s participation to be left up to them.

A parent should force their children to play sports.

Most of the time. (See: Your Child Isn’t That Good)

Sure there are exceptions. Not every child will have the ability or talent to play sports, but those cases are far more rare than we often assume. A majority of children should be forced to play something.

The value of athletics is too great.

And this is truer today than ever.

In a society where obesity is at the core of many leading causes of death and in my own country 1/3 of all adults are obese, it is almost a parent’s moral obligation to ensure physical activity for their children.

Living in a time where narcissism is on the rise among youth, the value which sports can bring of teaching teamwork, dedication, and dealing with success and failure is vital.

Children need to be involved in sports and parents are the ones who should make the decision for them.

Notice what I haven’t said. I did not say:

We should become one of those parents trying to live our athletic dreams through our children.

We should place sports above all other things.

We should live a life out of balance because of a sports schedule.

We should pressure our children to win. (See: Three Things a Parent Should Do From the Stands)

I said we should make them play, but even as we do so, we should be the one’s making sure everyone keeps the proper perspective on the activity.

Notice another thing I did not say. I did not say a parent should force a child to play a specific sport. I do not believe they should.

A parent should require their child play something. A parent should expose their child to several activities and as the child grows, the child should control which sports he or she plays. I demand THAT you play; you choose WHAT you play.

By allowing the child to pick which activities to do, it empowers them to express themselves, learn to control their lives, and understand the consequences of decisions.

The child choosing also helps the parent from becoming too involved in the child’s play. We should be diligent in assuring the child it is there decision what they play. They do not have to pick what we love or expect. They are free within the boundaries we have given them to choose whatever they desire. (See: What Makes a Little Boy Cry)

It can be a team sport or an individual sport. It can be something they do at school or an activity through another organization. It can be a sport which has games and keeps score or simply a physical activity for which there is no clear winner or loser. It can be football or Crossfit, but it will be something.

Every child needs to learn the discipline of regular physical activity. The sooner they make it a habit within their lives the longer they will reap the benefits. The issue is too important for a parent to leave the decision to a child.

Force your kids to play. They may not like it now, but they will thank you later.

For more, see:

Which Parent Are You?

Three Ways Parents Discourage Their Children

33 Responses to Force Your Kids to Play Sports
  1. brittneydeanne Reply

    Great advice! I would also add that dance is a great active for kids who love music and can’t seem to find a “sport” that works for them. I was that kid who couldn’t catch a ball to save my life and I hated most active things…but I loved dance. It isn’t considered to be an athletic option to many parents, but it’s a great choice for some kids.

  2. Michael Newcity Reply

    Agree, but why not also “force” them to play an instrument, try out for a play, participate in a community development effort, etc.?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I’m okay with that. My emphasis in this article was about the need for exercise. I’m fine with making them join you on a run and community service.

    • John Hazzer Reply

      Children should not be “Forced to do anything” As of sports do keep them healthy and in shape, if they do not enjoy the sport and you are still forcing it on them the will burst like a bubble, and possibly have more anger issues, mental issues etc. ~ Dr. John Hazzer
      (Doctor in psychology)

      • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

        Children shouldn’t be forced to do anything? Obey? Go to school? Go to bed?

      • Taylor Reply

        What If your child isn’t doing anything? And you gave them an option? Isn’t it your obligation as a parent to force them to make good decisions?

  3. Linda Stewart Wells Reply

    Marching band in high school was the route three of our children took. They got exercise, learned to work well with others, and benefited from the music. They began playing the instruments in middle school band. They chose which instrument they would play. Only one of our children did not end up in marching band. The band director in middle school tried to force her to play the flute when what she wanted to play was the drums. She eventually gave up band.

  4. colissa Reply

    I have one who threw up on field day in first grade…she did dance and music there after. My other has many special needs including issues with balance and coordination. Sports are absolutely the best thing for her. I stopped doing PT and OT and she has run track, bowled, 7 yrs of t-ball, and recently started running the jr mud runs. She loves the friendships made, the cheers, and has improved far more rapidly than ever in therapy! I totally agree with the benefits of joining some kind of team or group. I also think it helps with work ethic and discipline. Thanks for the article

  5. Eric Reply

    Forcing a child to play sports is dead wrong. I see absolutely no benefit what so ever. Most athletic people I encountered growing up spent most of their time bullying less athletic kids. I have been a musician all my life and teach violin and guitar lessons. I see parents unfairly push their children in music too, but at least in music, the child will not be forced to suffer physical pain and possible serious injury. Forcing a child to play sports is the equivalent of child abuse. I never played a sport, will never play a sport, and I am not obese or unhealthy. The so-called sports culture of our country is the root of a lot of problems. It stresses the importance of competition and the emphasis of being better than everyone else instead of nurturing a child in whatever they may excel in. I have never regretted not playing sports.

  6. Lin Reply

    I still to this day feel the single best thing about being an adult is that no one can force me to play sports. I hated them that much. In fact, I am more fit now than I was when sports were forced on me in my youth. I have one child who likes sports and 3 who take after me. They are all fit, happy and well-adjusted people. If I could opt them out of physical education at school, I would, and let them do what they love instead: running around in the woods and riding bikes and playing with the dog.

    And sports may keep kids out of trouble for a while (so does band, theater, scouts), many of the young people in my community who have been caught up in this current drug problem were high school athletes. Their addictions start with painkillers taken for sports injuries.

  7. AJ Reply

    You have got to be the biggest idiot in the world if you think this advice is acceptable. Quitting sports was the best thing that I ever did. I was (and still am) so much happier without sport(s) in my life. Do NOT force your kids to play! It is dead wrong!

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      AJ, how do you stay in shape?

      • AJ Reply

        Sorry if I sounded harsh in my first comment, my apologies. But I work. Haven’t gained any weight since I quit.

  8. Reply

    As long as your kids are active, then there is no need for them to play organized sports if they don’t want to. Sports should be about getting exercise while having fun. If it isn’t fun for them then it can be torture. I was terruble at sports as a kid and not only was it humiliating, it completely killed my self esteem. Other kids on the team became frustrated with me and were very mean. When my parents finally let me quit it was the best day of my life. Forcing tour children to play sports is horrible advice. There are plenty of ways to get exercise that don’t involve organized sports.

  9. Joe B Reply

    I have to say this is atrocious advice. I was forced to play competitive sports for years. It caused lifelong damage that I’m going to be treated for till the day i die. It also destroyed the parent-child relationship and ruined those lines of communication. Their decisions caused so much resentment that I rarely see my folks now 20 years later. If the choice is ever left to me, I will dump them in a nursing-home in a heartbeat.

    As a child i deferred to their judgment assuming they were older and wiser. Now as an adult, i firmly believe they shouldn’t have had children and were complete fools.

    While I don’t believe their intentions were malicious, the results of forcing sports has been devastating.

  10. Jay Bob Reply

    What fantasy world are you living in? Rare to not be able to play sports? Plenty of kids with bad eyesight. Even if it is rare so what? What about that one kid? You’re worried about physical health, how about emotional health? How about that kid who gets ostracized for not being good at sports or is too ugly. You know what it feels like to see a large group of people go out of their way to not pick you for some reason? The teacher sit there and watch? Ever had a teacher make fun of you? Bet you haven’t. You don’t need sports or exercise to be healthy. A simple walking is good enough. Even then though, why aren’t you worried about intelligence? Ever met an athlete who’s smart? I haven’t. Not to mention, 90% of all bullies and rapists are dumb jocks.

  11. Rebecca Reply

    Thanks for this article, my husband has the same stance, while I worry about their happiness too much. We decided to push my 12 year old into a sport (we knew he’d be good at it) and he loved it and signed up again.

    He didn’t love it at first, and their were plenty of awkward moments and fights about going to practice. But, he’s done a total 180.

    Thanks for this article, it made a difference

  12. Keegan Reply

    I felt like you should give your children a choice to go to church when they reach middle school. When they start to develop they learn what they want to believe and have faith in.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Understandable. I have a different approach. I don’t think a 13 or 14-year-old always has the maturity to make decisions of such importance.

      • Zoey Reply

        Mr. Thompson, I completely disagree with that statement. I may be biased, seeing as I AM a 14-year-old. However, I am a 14-year-old who is in all AP classes (two grade levels above in math), does yearbook design for my school, takes robotics, AND is forced to do a sport I despise. I think I have enough responsibility and maturity to quit this sport.

        • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

          Zoey, thanks for the response. We might not disagree as much as it appears. I don’t think you should be forced to play a sport you despise. I think you should be forced to play a sport, but you get to pick which one (and simply working out on a regular basis counts in my opinion). So I would encourage your parents to let you find a physical activity which allows you to get great exercise.

  13. K.D. Reply

    I am in total agreement with Joe B. I was forced to compete in sports as child and it has done life long damage that I struggle with until this day. I was a naturally shy and reserved little girl to begin with and I remember literally throwing up from stress and anxiety days before a race and from the preasure to perform infront of others. I hated every minute of it and my feelings fell on deaf ears which in turn caused me to learn how to bottle up feelings and emotions. I suffered from severe anxiety and depression then and still do until this day. My brother was no exception and suffered from severe emotional problems as well. As a result, he eventually committed suicide. ” Forcing” children to do things like these means their thoughts, feelings and interests are being ignored and can cause identity disturbances and stunt emotional development. Instead of forcing a child to do something let them choose what interests them. Nothing is more important than a child’s emotional happiness and finding out what makes them happy and unique is the only way they can be raised to become happy, sucessful adults. On a side note, I am now 42 years old and have CHOSEN to eat right and workout regularly at the gym now. I can put a 21 year old to shame in a bikini! 🙂 I was actually a model for a period of time however my relationship with my parents is and forever will be damaged. I moved far away from them and frankly don’t really enjoy being around them for long periods of time. I have finally come to terms with the emotional damage that was done but it has been a very, very long and hard road for me. Those things can never be taken back. Having love and open communication with your child is SO important and if you are forcing a child to do something like sports, that means they are telling you I don’t like something and you are responding by saying “I don’t care how you feel, you are doing it anyway.” Great recipe for developing things like Borderline Personality Disorder.

  14. Octavius Rift Reply

    I can empathize with some of the comments made about forcing children especially shy or unathehltic kids to participate in sports. However there is nothing wrong with “forcing” your child to exercise. It doesn’t want to do a sport so be it but the child can’t just sit around and do nothing. Like someone commented riding a bike or playing in the woods is perfectly acceptable. However the push towards computer gaming and laziness shouldn’t be.

    Side note: blaming your parents because the forced you to play sports isn’t going to get you anywhere. They were doing what they thought was right you can’t blame them for that.

    • Liam James Birmingham Reply

      Yes you can, someone can be held responsible for his or her actions regardless of intent.

    • Blake Reply

      Yeah, pretty much every child abuser ever has claimed to have the child’s interest at heart.

  15. Octavius Rift Reply

    I can empathize with some of the comments made about forcing children especially shy or unathehltic kids to participate in sports. However there is nothing wrong with “forcing” your child to exercise. It doesn’t want to do a sport so be it but the child can’t just sit around and do nothing. Like someone commented riding a bike or playing in the woods is perfectly acceptable. However the push towards computer gaming and laziness shouldn’t be.

    Side note: blaming your parents because the yforced you to play sports isn’t going to get you anywhere. They were doing what they thought was right you can’t blame them for that. As one person commented it isn’t like telling your son or daughter I don’t care what you think, you choose to perceive it that way. Rather I care about you and want you to be healthy and active. They might not have chosen the best way to go about it but you shouldn’t blame all your emotional problems on your parents. Years of emotional damage because you had to play sports? Following your logic kids should be able to do anything they want. Most children don’t like reading, eating healthy food, going to school, attending religious services, etc. Should those also not be allowed? It seems you have resentment toward your parents when the problem probably lies with the way you were treated when you competed in those sports. If a parent were to fully obey their children the end up becoming narcisstic and more likely to have borderline personality disorder. Not feeling valued or feeling like people don’t care about your feelings causes a different class of mental disorders not associated with the former. However if simply playing sports makes you feel like that there are other problems going on that aren’t being shared in your short post. Also to insinuate that your parents caused your brother to kill themselves is far fetched and points to signs of a deeper problem that could have been possibly exasperated by sports but certainly not the main or even root cause.

    • Matt Reply

      I don’t think you’ve ever had this issue before and if you have, it’s not right to assume that it wasn’t all caused by that problem. Sure, there could have been external causes, which wasn’t mentioned, but from my personal experience, it can single handedly cause emotional damage. Admittingly, I am a shy kid. I am naturally anxious, not particularly active, nor am I very interested in sports. I have a good relationship with my family, my dad included; however, my dad has been pushing me to no end to pursue in sports that I don’t enjoy all that much. I play hockey during the winter and it’s been like that since I was around 7 or so, and I never wanted to play it. I think it was okay to make me play it for a few years, at least for me to understand the game a bit, but even 10 years later, I’m still given no choice, even after multiple emotional breakdowns and health issues that were directly linked to it. I’ve suggested playing badminton with friends and family from time to time, working out at the gym, biking, skiing, and even recreational skating with friends, yet that clearly isn’t enough for him and he only cares about official sporting, which I personally can’t stand. I believe that physical activity is important for kids, but forcing them into something they clearly do not enjoy is not benefiting them, unless their mental health isn’t something you particularly care about.

      As for comparing it to religion, diets, school, and so on, it’s not quite the same thing. Religion is a belief, not necessarily something that brings any clear benefits, apart from morals and good behaviour, but it’s not really something you can force onto someone, because people can believe what they want, all you can do is influence them to follow your steps. Diets are much more versatile compared to sports, since there are an endless number of foods to choose from, it’s just a matter of knowing what they like and being creative. Usually this becomes a problem when the parents buy foods they like over what the kids like, or maybe because of budget reasons, but if it’s ever an apparent problem, there should be work arounds in most cases. One thing about school, is that (where I live) it is legally mandatory to attend school (up until high school), and if your child doesn’t show up for a set number of days, the parents could be in legal trouble. That’s not really the parents fault, though, since it’s a government law, but it’s also important for them to go, since it will very likely lead them to their future jobs. Sports on the other hand should be optional for the kids, but only after they give it an attempt to try it. It might be good for them to give it a shot, like anything else in life, but if that specific sport isn’t for them, then leave it that way, you’re not gonna make them like it after years of them disliking it. If they can’t find any sport or physical activity that interests them, maybe it’s about time to let them tackle other forms of activities, like music, art, writing, and so on. Sometimes life isn’t about being physically in shape, it’s about doing things that make you happy and what brings you on the right path to your own personal view of success.

  16. Angie Reply

    Kevin, I completely agree that kids need to be required to do something physical, whether it is an organized sport, biking, riding a scooter, etc. We have three boys, and with my husband, wrestling is not an option. Our oldest boy has wrestled since 6th grade and is now a Junior and informed my husband today that he does not want to wrestle this year. My husband was furious. His reasons are that we have all put too much time into it to quit now, he believes that wrestling teaches discipline, hard work, and self defense, and I believe that a lot of it has to do with that my husband loves it and this is how he bonds with them. Any advice?

    On a side note, do you also believe that, while parents should force their children to attend church, they should not force their child to go to a specific church, denomination, or religion? That would be more in alignment with the forcing kids to play sports but letting them choose which one.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Angie, for me kids get more freedom as they age. So my kids, 9 and 12, are going to church with me. As they get older, they will get more freedom. I could see that my 16 year-old can go to whatever church they would like and my 18 year-old might get to choose if they go at all.

  17. Blake Reply

    Absolutely catastrophically wrong. I cannot believe that you are actually responsible for children. Then again, maybe I can, considering what a festering hive of abuse, mysogyny, and ignorance sports culture in America is.

    You CANNOT compare sports to eating, sleeping, etc. Without eating, you DIE. Without sports, uh… well my life got a lot better, although I still struggle with the long term consequences of being forced to play sports for years as a child. Sports exposed me to bullies, harassment, discrimination. It drove a wedge between me and my parents. I obviously hated it, but my parents had nitwits like Kevin whispering in their ears, and kept forcing me to do it until I was old enough to realize they had no legal or moral right to do so. Since then, I’ve followed my dreams and passions, and if I hadn’t learned to ignore my parents, I would have failed.

    Don’t force kids to do anything. Encourage them and support them in what they love. My parents certainly didn’t. I can’t say I have much faith in Kevin to know what’s good for kids after reading this nonsense.

  18. Will Aves Reply

    Mr kevin A. Thompson
    i agree to a certain stance, kids should be encouraged to play, or forced to ride a bike. i myself am a kid that that is being forced. right now im stopping because of some horrible issues with my ankles, stopping me from running like most kids. my ankles are that bad that a week ago i was walking up a 45º angle, and i was limping for the rest of the day,
    no harsh intensions
    kind regards
    Will Aves

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