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Elementary School Kids Elementary School Kids

When should children start playing highly competitive sports?

Posted by on Jan. 31, 2013 at 4:35 PM
  • 54 Replies

My boys' play hockey. Actually, they live, breathe and dream hockey (we're Canadian, French Canadian to boot... 'nuff said). They love it, and they are 6 and 8 years old. My older son loves it so much that he has decided, when ice hockey finishes in April, he doesn't want to play soccer in the spring, he wants to join the ball hockey league in a neighbouring town. He really loves it.

My dilemma is that next fall, my son will go into the Atom league as a 9 yr old at which point our community has tiered teams - to play on the first tier, he'll have to go through tryouts, and it's all very competitive and political. I think 9 is too young to be worried about making a team. The competitiveness of it all rubs me the wrong way. Parents' talking in the stands about other children, negatively commenting on their characters, it all strikes me as the wrong reason to have your children involved in a team sport.

We've done many things to support our children's love of hockey: enrolled them in power skating to strengthen their skating skills, summer hockey school for intense skills development, road hockey games with neighbour families, participate in away and local tournaments, etc etc. Yes, it's a lot of money, but we see a lot of positive benefits in organized sports.

What are your views on competitive sports and young children? At what age should children be competing with friends for a slot on the top team?

by on Jan. 31, 2013 at 4:35 PM
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Replies (1-10):
M4LG5
by Gold Member on Jan. 31, 2013 at 4:42 PM
2 moms liked this

I'm a youth sports coach and believe that we are turning our kids towards competitive sports way too young.  I have my girls playing little league softball and will continue that until they are about 11 - 12 years old.  At that time, we will assess and seek their interest in being more competitive.  My older daugther's soccer team is pretty good.  They are a U10 team but because they are pretty good, they had to choose between competitive/select or recreation.  They stuck with the recreation team and played up to U12.  It was great for them to continue learning the game at a pace that is still fun and still focuses on fundamentals.  Going into competitive teams can still do this but, honestly, you start to focus more on win/losses than anything else.

Also, it can be quite costly. 

natesmom1228
by on Jan. 31, 2013 at 4:45 PM

If you have done all the "love of hockey" extra stuff, why not let them try out? Unfortunally no matter what they do there will be parents like you described. My son started fencing when he was 7 and entered in his first tournament at 8. He is 12 and just finished fencing to pursue bowling in school. I was sad when he didn't want to continue fencing, but he is getting older and it wasn't his passion anymore.

gsdogsrule
by Member on Jan. 31, 2013 at 4:56 PM

I like the idea of letting them play without the pressure, for the love of the game and being part of a team. Unfortunately, I think that here in Canada, we put too much emphasis on excelling in hockey at too young an age. Everyone seems to think this 5 yr old or that 7 yr old is going to be the next Sidney Crosby or Wayne Gretzky, and the reality is, most of the local "superstars" will never make it to the NHL. It's this weird thing we do here. Families spend, on average, $10,000 or more each year to "support" their child's hockey passion. I just want my kids to make friends and have fun. And not get hurt....

Barabell
by Barbara on Jan. 31, 2013 at 4:56 PM
1 mom liked this

Hi, I'm a hockey mom too. My son is 13, and he's played travel teams instead of rec teams most of the time. I know things are pretty different in Canada, even though MN is the "state of hockey" in the US. Even the level he plays now doesn't completely cut players, but he still has to try out for the right level. Some years have had bad results, and sometimes it's based on who you know instead of your kids' actual level.

After having gone through the struggles of competitive hockey, would I have done it differently for my son? My answer is no because he has learned a lot of valuable life lesson through the experiences he has, even if all those lessons sometimes ones--as a mom--that I wanted to shelter him from.

My son loves hockey, and it's his passion right now. He loves playing at the competitive level, even if there have been pitfalls along the way.

Barabell
by Barbara on Jan. 31, 2013 at 4:59 PM


Quoting gsdogsrule:

I like the idea of letting them play without the pressure, for the love of the game and being part of a team. Unfortunately, I think that here in Canada, we put too much emphasis on excelling in hockey at too young an age. Everyone seems to think this 5 yr old or that 7 yr old is going to be the next Sidney Crosby or Wayne Gretzky, and the reality is, most of the local "superstars" will never make it to the NHL. It's this weird thing we do here. Families spend, on average, $10,000 or more each year to "support" their child's hockey passion. I just want my kids to make friends and have fun. And not get hurt....

My impression is that the Canadian hockey scene is very different, and I do think it is a lot. The USA model is so different. They got rid of checking here until 13. I get emails from USA Hockey that regularly encourages parents to put their kids in other sports in the offseason. They sent a really good article a couple months ago saying that kids playing year-round now are peaking at 17, and that is too soon. They encouraged parents--at a minimum--to give their kids a 3 month break from hockey with in a year. From the little I've heard about the Canadian hockey model, I get the impression that the kids are pushed much harder at much younger ages.

steelcrazy
by Emerald Member on Jan. 31, 2013 at 5:05 PM
2 moms liked this

I have to agree that the lessons learned are great life lessons.  How long do we shelter our children and give them the false sense that they are always going to be winners?  In the real world, there are winners and losers.  There are people who are better at things than we are, and people who are worse.  We need to learn how to gracefully win and lose with dignity.  We need to learn how to teach those who aren't as good as us and learn from those who are better.   

IDK, I really don't see competitive sports as bad.  

steelcrazy
by Emerald Member on Jan. 31, 2013 at 5:09 PM

That is exactly how it is here with football.  Kids start playing tackle football at the age of 5 and they have to try out for the team.  It is very competitive and all about winning and trophies and being the next big super star.  Lots of boys from Pittsburgh were able to avoid working in the steel mills thanks to their football skills.  Most of them got full scholarships to colleges and got degrees to keep out of the mills.  More than you would expect, ended up in the NFL.

Quoting gsdogsrule:

I like the idea of letting them play without the pressure, for the love of the game and being part of a team. Unfortunately, I think that here in Canada, we put too much emphasis on excelling in hockey at too young an age. Everyone seems to think this 5 yr old or that 7 yr old is going to be the next Sidney Crosby or Wayne Gretzky, and the reality is, most of the local "superstars" will never make it to the NHL. It's this weird thing we do here. Families spend, on average, $10,000 or more each year to "support" their child's hockey passion. I just want my kids to make friends and have fun. And not get hurt....


Mom2jngnc
by Stephannie on Jan. 31, 2013 at 5:14 PM

I would love to see scores with winning/losing being at the recreation level. The "everyone wins" irks me. 

However, I think many parents push their children into aggressive leagues early in hopes of them becoming the next big name.

My kids are in rec as long as I can keep them there. My 8th grader just started trying out for school sports last year.... and had been cut from some, and made others..... 

Barabell
by Barbara on Jan. 31, 2013 at 5:20 PM

I agree. If the kid shows the desire to play at that level, there are a lot of great life lessons.

My son has learned a lot from playing on a competitive team. Initially, he was on a team that lost all the time, and now he's on a team that wins a lot. When he sees the poor losers out there, it really shocked him at first because he never acted that way when on the losing side.

Quoting steelcrazy:

I have to agree that the lessons learned are great life lessons.  How long do we shelter our children and give them the false sense that they are always going to be winners?  In the real world, there are winners and losers.  There are people who are better at things than we are, and people who are worse.  We need to learn how to gracefully win and lose with dignity.  We need to learn how to teach those who aren't as good as us and learn from those who are better.   

IDK, I really don't see competitive sports as bad.  


M4LG5
by Gold Member on Jan. 31, 2013 at 5:48 PM


Quoting gsdogsrule:

I like the idea of letting them play without the pressure, for the love of the game and being part of a team. Unfortunately, I think that here in Canada, we put too much emphasis on excelling in hockey at too young an age. Everyone seems to think this 5 yr old or that 7 yr old is going to be the next Sidney Crosby or Wayne Gretzky, and the reality is, most of the local "superstars" will never make it to the NHL. It's this weird thing we do here. Families spend, on average, $10,000 or more each year to "support" their child's hockey passion. I just want my kids to make friends and have fun. And not get hurt....

There is a GREAT book about pushing them too hard, too fast.  It's called "Until it hurts" by Mark Hyman.  What's interesting is that everyone is seeking out these college scholarships when, in reality, IF they get one, the average assistance a college athletic scholarship is about $8000.....and the cost of college is 3x this (AT LEAST).  Honestly, save your money and put it in a college saving fund and you can probably cover more college fees than an athletic scholarship will.

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