5 Reasons Why I Don’t Register My Kids in Team Sports

by Josée

“My child plays lacrosse, basketball, volleyball and soccer” beamed a mom I recently met, “How about your kids?” she asked, curiously. “We don’t do team sports”, I replied, feeling a bit awkward.

Team sports are a fixture of North American culture and often touted as important part of childhood experiences. Team sports can positively contribute towards building community, cooperation, problem-solving and leadership skill. They can also help combat childhood obesity, improve child eating habits, improve mental health and reduce risky behaviour in youth. Lots of good stuff!

Despite all the positive aspects of team sports, I don’t register my kids in them. Why? Read on to find out, but first here’s a quick definition of team sports (for kids and youth) that I wrote for the purpose of this blog post.

Team Sports: An activity in which kids or youth are placed into teams by adults with an intent to compete and win against another team. For example, soccer, hockey, rugby, football, baseball and volleyball.

1. Team Sports Discourage Families from Being Active Together

Team sports don’t promote and empower families to be active together. These days many moms and dads are being relegated to the role of chauffeur and junior athlete manager, often putting aside their own needs to exercise and stay active. I’ve got to be honest, I’m not one for sitting on the sidelines for an hour (or more) watching my child run after a ball. The truth is I want to play too!

Three-quarters of parents that bring their child to team sports don’t play the sport regularly themselves. –  Statistics Canada: Kids’ Sports

When parents finally have time to be active, its the kids that are too busy. “I wish my sons were here to ski with me”, lamented a father I met on a ski lift. His sons couldn’t join him because they were committed to a weekend of hockey practices and games.

Families are so busy these days, spending less and less time together. Instead of spending those precious weekend and after-school hours, rushing to-and-from practices and games, choose to spend those hours being active together.

[bctt tweet=”Instead of rushing to-and-from practices on weekends, choose to spend time being active together as a family. #OutFam” username=”@Backwoods_Mama”]

Suggestions

  • Choose activities and sports to do together as a family.
    • Get a family ski pass for your local hill or nordic centre.
    • Go bouldering together at your local climbing gym.
    • Go for a family hike and explore local trails.
    • Take a family yoga class.
    • Go for a family bike ride on roads or trail.
    • Swim together in a pool or lake.
  • Commit your child to fewer team sports.
  • Find ways to participate in your child’s sports.
    • Volunteer to be a coach or assistant-coach.
    • Practice your child’s favourite sport with them.

2.Team Sports Have High Rates of Injuries

I am not risk adverse. I bring my kids rock climbing, hiking up in the alpine and mountain biking. You can get hurt doing these things, really hurt. Team sports, however, account for a staggering amount of child injuries, more so than individual sports. – Injury risk is different in team and individual youth sport

Why is that? Kids are getting into teams sports younger, doing them more intensely and are more prone to injury because of the way their bodies are growing. The result is a high number of concussions, joint injuries and overuse injuries especially for kids that play hockey, basketball, soccer, football and baseball. The unfortunate thing is that these kinds of injuries have a lasting impacts on children’s physical and mental health.

It’s important to keep kids active and sports have an important role in doing that. Here are some suggestions for mitigating injuries cause by popular team sports.

Suggestions

  • Wait until your child is a least 6 year old before registering them in team sports – Sport readiness in children and youth
  • Choose an individual sport instead of a team sport so that your child can learn at their own pace. (e.g. swimming, running, climbing, biking, skating, skiing)
  • Encourage your child to try a variety of sports instead of hyper-focusing on one.
  • Ensure your child wears appropriate protective gear while playing sports.
  • Listen to your child, don’t force them to play while injured!

3.Team Sports Encourage a Competitive Culture

“Crush them! Destroy them!”, these are some things coaches and parents might say to kids during team games. While team sports are often touted as being a wonderful way to learn about team building and cooperation, they can also teach kids to be aggressive and suppress empathy in order to win. When coaches and parents put kids under pressure to win it takes the fun out of playing the game.

“Having fun” is the main reason that most children like to participate in sports

Youth sport: positive and negative impact on young athletes

Suggestions

  • Register your child in a sport that emphasizes fun, participation and developmentally appropriate skills, not winning.
  • Register your child in recreational/community team sports instead of competitive (“all star” or “rep”) team sports.
  • Good coaches are key to making team sports a positive experience for kids. Do your homework, ask around and find a good coach for your kid. (i.e. committed to safety, models respectful behaviour, empathetic and empathizes team building)

4. Team Sports are Not Inclusive

Give me a game of neighbourhood street hockey or a backyard scrimmage any day. Wait aren’t these team sports!? Sure, but the difference is that everyone can play.

Team sports can be expensive and cost can be a major barrier for families. While there are way to help mitigate the cost of team sports (see suggestions below), kids might have troubles fitting into a team for various reasons. Children who are small for their age, obese, have medical issues or disabilities or have low physical literacy might feel singled-out by coaches, parent or other children on the team. It’s often the kids that would benefit the most from team sports that cannot or will not participate.

Suggestions

  • Choose sports that are less expensive. (i.e. swimming, running)
  • Buy used equipment.
  • Play sports for fun with friends. (i.e. street hockey, backyard soccer)
  • Look for team or individual sports that are best suited to your child’s unique abilities.
  • Check for athletic bursaries in your city/town to help cover the cost of team sports.

5. Team Sports Don’t Keep Kids Active for Life

By the age of 13, 70% of kids drop out of team sports – National Alliance for Sports. That’s a shocking figure. The reasons are diverse and complex, sometimes it’s due to injuries, pressure from coaches or getting bullied. Also, this percentage only gets bigger as kids become youth, then adults. If participation in team sports isn’t the answer for keeping kids active into adolescences and adulthood, then what is?

The answer: Kids of active parents are more likely to be active as adults themselves!

Suggestions

  • Choose activities you can do together as a family. (e.g. biking, running, hiking, skiing, kayaking, rock climbing)
  • Make exercise a priority in your life and model active living to your children.
  • Ask your kids to make suggestions for being active together.
  • Make active living a fun and positive experience for the whole family.
  • If your child enjoys team sports, keep a healthy balance between team sports and being active together as a family.

In Summary

Team Sports can definitely be a fun way for kids to stay active BUT they are not the answer for keeping kids active and fit for life. While there are positive aspects to team sports, there are drawbacks too. Ultimately, the answer to keeping our kids fit is to model active living as parents and be active on a regular basis with our children. So strap on those shoes, skis, flippers and have fun adventuring together!

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27 comments

Jeremie Bergeron October 12, 2017 - 8:13 am

Great article! I agree that being a good example is the most important thing.

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Josée October 12, 2017 - 10:01 am

Thank you! Leading a healthy active lifestyle is so important for our kids to see.

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Shari S October 12, 2017 - 9:02 am

So well said! We had a similar conversation with friends this summer. For us it comes down to family time. I don’t just want to drive my kids around, I want to do things with them.

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Josée October 12, 2017 - 10:00 am

Thanks Shari! I agree with you. Time is precious and spending time together being active and having fun is our family’s number one priority.

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Rob October 12, 2017 - 7:20 pm

Thanks for the read Josee! Definitely quality over quantity is the way. As a supporter of team sports, I would also only support a single organized (ie. non-family) sport at a time, providing a balance between the benefits you speak of and those that are developed in team settings. A thought: Recreational leagues rather than “all-star” or “rep” teams keep more focus on inclusiveness with a competitive edge rather than focus. Coach is definitely key.

On the injury front, I haven’t researched, but from being involved in both I would expect more injuries in team sports because you have all the same injury potential as individual sports (eg. Over-use, twisting knee/ankle, etc.) In addition to collisions, tripping, etc. from other athletes. I have experienced/seen a large increase in injuries regardless of age, not because of child development.

Definitely a risk-benefit balance. I can tell you that growing up, I loved soccer and had little to no interest in just running. In the end I have turned runner and all the soccer was great training!

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Josée October 12, 2017 - 8:12 pm

Thanks Rob for taking the time to leave a comment! I agree, one single organized sport at a time is good advice. This way families can still find time to be active together. Looking into recreational teams is another good tip. I’ll add that to the post. As for injuries and child development this is more related to overuse injuries (ie. stress fractures) caused by an imbalance in strength between ligaments and bones. It’s more of an issue for kids that over-train in a single sport. Team sports definitely have their place and can be a wonderful way to encourage children to be active in a fun way and build skills for the future. Like you mentioned, balance is key.

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Kerrie mcrann October 13, 2017 - 6:29 am

I AGREE! I look at your photos of your wee ones and wish I could turn back time and hike more, camp more, climb more, swim more, ski more…. just the four of us! Thank you so much for the inspiration to be ACTIVE TOGETHER more!!! It’s not too late and I am grateful for this article. I will be sure to add on the family sport list “travel more, cook more, build more”!

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Josée October 13, 2017 - 8:17 am

Thank you for taking the time to comment Kerrie. You’re right, it’s never too late! There’s still time to enjoy being active together. I hope there are many beautiful family adventures awaiting you in the near future. Happy Adventuring!

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Suzanne Torpey March 2, 2020 - 3:35 pm

I love this and totally agree!!! It’s so hard explaining this to families around us because it is not the norm. Thank you for the encouragement!

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Phillip October 13, 2017 - 8:27 am

I believe every child is different and every family is different. I think families have to be careful to not become over idealistic in their decisions! I often see the same all or nothing mentality with outdoor families as team sport families. I feel it should be up to the individual child and family to decide what to participate in and whenever possible have a balanced approach!
Our son loves team sports and has played hockey, lacrosse, soccer, baseball BUT he also skis, rock climbs, mountain bikes, backpacks and hikes and camps! I have usually helped coach almost everyone of his teams and he loves having me out there. We also do all the outdoor sports as a family. If we had made a ideological decision to not put him in team sports he would have been crushed!
A balanced approach that is at least partially child lead I believe is the best. To say we don’t do team sports, or we don’t do individual sports because we are too busy with team sports are equally one sided and limiting.
Children should be allowed the opportunity to try many different sports, team and individual! Each individual child needs the chance to find their passion and the type of activities they excel at. Finding a sport that you truly love is a great way to encourage life long participation and exercise team or individual.

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Josée October 13, 2017 - 8:40 am

Thanks for taking the time to comment Phil! At heart I think balance is key and each family needs to consider what will work best for their family and for their kids. Some families can incorporate teams sports, individual sports and family activity in a very balanced way – that’s wonderful! But for many families the opposite is true. My hope is that when families make choices around team/individual sports they will consider the bigger picture of being healthy and active together as a family.

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Karen Ung October 18, 2017 - 11:49 am

I agree balance is so important; an all or nothing approach is not beneficial to the child. When kids don’t play team sports, they miss out building important skills and relationships. I will tell you right now that I loathed team sports as a child because I never had a good phys ed teacher and options for sports were limited in the country, but the experiences my kids are having are fantastic because of some wonderful parent coaches who stress having fun over winning.

We take our kids out all the time, but their skiing and skating improved drastically when they were in classes/teams with kids their age. The camaraderie and positive peer pressure (wanting to do better to be an asset to their teams) are priceless. My kid has never hustled on skates as much as since joining Ringette. I always thought she was a good skater, but she’s improved TONS since ringette started. It’s a different experience and not a bad one. 🙂

As far as families being excluded, there is no reason for that to happen. I decided to coach xc skiing and adventure running so I could get some exercise while my kids were in class and had a wonderful experience with both. It’s what we make of it! We try to do 1 (max 2 – sometimes 6 weeks of swimming overlaps with an activity) sport at a time to allow lots of time for adventures with family and friends.

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Shauna October 13, 2017 - 6:37 pm

Thanks for your post Josee! I always really enjoy your thoughts and experiences. I can really relate to you here, our family approaches outdoor exercise and pursuits in a similar way. However, I am finding as my kids get older we’re becoming more likely to honour and facilitate their individual athletic interests. This post is definitely food for thought though. I appreciate the opportunity to return to my original parenting instincts. It’s hard not to get wrapped up in all that is out there and available for kids. Hopefully I never end up on the sidelines for too long!

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Josée October 13, 2017 - 8:43 pm

Thanks for taking the time to share your thought Shauna. There are so many great opportunities out there for our kids and it can be tough to say no sometimes, especially when we want to support our kids in their interests and passions. It’s a balancing act for sure 🙂

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Jessica October 14, 2017 - 8:45 am

Great article. I totally agree with so much of this and we are in the same boat as you are. It’s just so hard to give up our precious family time so we’ve avoided it so far (which is pretty good considering my oldest is already 10)

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Amelia October 15, 2017 - 4:54 am

I love this and the message. I agree with all of it. We overcommit our kids, too. And then they are so busy. I haven’t seen one of my friends for months, nor has she been able to come to classes, events, workshops, retreats when they are happening because she has to constantly be at the arena for her son’s hockey tournaments. They are basically all weekend every weekend… we definitely need more family time and as an ex-high level competitive athlete, I can completely look back in my own journey and see when family time was almost non-existent and it always coincided with my level of competition.

And… I personally would also not give up my experiences as an athlete for anything. It is definitely a double-edged sword. I immediately thought of Soccer prodigy Christine Sinclair as I read this blog and thought “she’s inspired millions of kids and multiple generations to challenge themselves and do their best and get out and get active and what if her parents decided when she was young that they just weren’t into team sports?”

You definitely gave me a lot to think about in the few years I still have to decide for my own family.

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Mr Fundamental April 24, 2019 - 8:08 am

I’m a bit late to the party, but thought I’d comment anyway. Your point #1 really rings true with me:
1. Team Sports Discourage Families from Being Active Together

Two of my kids are about to start soccer season, and the other one flag football. In the past I’ve coached them all, but there are just too many conflicts now.
We are about to enter two months of chauffeuring and watching them play. I’ll likely coach one of their teams. As you mention, I’d much rather be part of the action!
Last night all five of use biked/scooted to the neighborhood park. We played frisbee, baseball, soccer, biked, and played on the playground equipment. Are organized team sports better than this?

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K Thomas August 29, 2019 - 12:08 pm

A great article but did you know that there is a great family activity that gets poo-pooed for being old fashioned. The club we belong to makes you part of a team, teaches you to listen, uses right and left cross body motions,and is a low impact physical activity that is equivalent to walking fast. So what is this family friendly activity that promotes teamwork, healthy mind, healthy heart, physical activity, and does it all to music. We call it modern Square Dancing! As for old fashion, our club uses a lot of modern pop, rock-n-roll, and country and western music. Look for a club in your area and give it a try!!

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Jo March 21, 2021 - 2:34 pm

This was an interesting perspective on team sports. I agree that it is great to have and encourage family time and also we need to be very aware of injury risks for our kids with ANY activity they play.
But – I think that being on a sports team at any level can be a great experience (and learning experience) for kids. Not sure what you mean by “inclusion” – sports teams provide camaraderie. Each kid is part of the team. Kids learn social skills. (Bullying is another story- and If that arises- there should be no tolerance). And, the real world is extremely competitive – why is competition bad? Teams win together and they lose together…..
some of the best friendships are formed on teams.

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Jacob March 25, 2021 - 3:52 pm

Very well said Joe

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Rj April 12, 2021 - 9:19 am

I disagree with this article. It’s stated earlier that “Team sports don’t promote and empower families to be active together”. While this may be true 1 to 2 hours out of the day to watch your children play is nothing. It shows that your supportive in everything they do. And as far as being active as a family, there can always be time made some day of the week to be active as a family if that’s what you’re interested in. Being on a competitive sports team at any level is a experience.

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sugma April 19, 2021 - 6:31 pm

what a karen

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tobi April 19, 2021 - 6:35 pm

joe said this is bullshit

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stopkarens April 19, 2021 - 6:36 pm

all yous are such karens

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sugondeez April 30, 2021 - 7:06 am

Karen

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LIGMA April 30, 2021 - 7:08 am

KAREN

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BEN DOVER April 30, 2021 - 7:09 am

BACKWOODSMAMA IS SMOKING ON SOME BACKWOODSCRACK

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