When should children start playing highly competitive sports?
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?