The number of adolescents who do not practice any sport in our country is worrying. We preach the benefits of sport, but, nevertheless, we are not able to convince them to practice it, and when they do, on many occasions, we push them to give it up. It seems that we only like to work with those who do very well, it is as if a teacher only wants to work with the brightest students in his class. But nothing better than a little story to understand it.
Our protagonist is a 15-year-old teenager who has been enjoying sports since an early age. Her experience began at the age of four with varied activities such as swimming, music, modern dance, ballet and table tennis, being at the age of nine when he decided on basketball. Her family always encouraged her to enjoy her different sports activities, without forcing her to choose one or the other, being her who expressed her preferences, opting for basketball from the age of nine to 15.
He has competed federatively with different levels of demand in each season. However, after beginning his seventh season, various shadows and doubts assail him. His reflections began when he came home from training. “Dad, this doesn’t seem like fun anymore,” she told her father, followed by “we train a lot, always doing the same thing, the coach doesn’t trust me”, “I’m the worst on the team”, “I’ve been playing for many years and I don’t I’m good, I hardly know how to shoot”, “the team is divided into two groups, it’s not the same as last season”, followed by other reflections outside the sport such as “I don’t have time to study” or “I can’t stay with my friends any weekends because of basketball”.
For any father or mother who wants their children to enjoy practicing sports, hearing that their son or daughter tells them that what they do is no longer fun and that the causes of this lack of fun is that they are stopping playing, participating and that is not considered by his coach, it is something very hard.
Why do we insist on highlighting the educational and formative benefits of sport if the harsh reality is otherwise? We should remember that, when children approach sport, there are four basic needs: to be treated as children, to be taken into account by their coaches and parents, to enjoy doing sport and not to be pressured inappropriately. The question that arises is why do we insist on saying that the sporting experience is loaded with values if it isn’t?
Experiences like our protagonist’s leave a mark that will last a lifetime and that will become an obstacle to getting closer to sport in adulthood. Childhood and adolescence are crucial moments in which one either loves sport or abandons its practice. And abandonment is a problem that should not be turned away. This abandonment of sports practice occurs more markedly in girls than in boys, and at earlier ages also in girls than in boys.
Children and adolescents do not play to entertain adults or to maintain the tradition of a club or a family. They play sports because they like it and have fun, and the sports experiences they can have are the ones that can make them better and healthier people. This matter is old, it is not from now, it has existed since it was said that the important thing was to participate. The reality is that it is not. For many parents and coaches the important thing is to win.
Scientific evidence tells us that a sector of children and adolescents leaves the sport, abandons it, and does so for various reasons: family pressure, the environment or the coach; other social priorities (other things to do) or because they are looking for another sport as an alternative; lack of enjoyment or boredom; and the low perception they have of their competition, the internal and negative pressures of the team or bad relations with the coach, to which must be added the injuries or the lack of material resources.
In countries like the United States, Australia or Spain, around 30% of adolescents (13-15 years old) drop out of sports every year, and this abandonment, far from being voluntary due to a loss of interest, is the result of adults we push them to stop, and when they are allowed to express the causes they indicate that:
1º) The activity is no longer fun for them, mainly because they do not play or are not taken out to play in competitions, their coach does not take them into account despite the fact that they train for a long time and, to top it off, their teammates ignore them for not be competent.
2º) They do not perceive themselves to be good enough or not as good as other members of the team, and they do not see that they improve despite going to training.
3º) They do not support the pressure exerted by the family, coaches and/or friends, being more evident in the girls. Without forgetting the gender stereotypes associated with the sport that is practiced.
4º) They see that there are other activities that they can do better than going to practice a sport that does not amuse them.
5º) The possible injuries that they may have because they are not capable of responding to the requirements of their sport (growing or developing outside of the sport biotype is associated with dropping out of sports as age advances, as well as the relative effect of age, since they usually select boys and girls born in the first quarters of the year who are more biologically developed than those born in the final months of the year).
Depending on the sports, the reasons are the same or have their own peculiarities. In individual sports, abandonment is focused on: “I don’t improve my skills, I don’t like to compete or I can’t do it with my friends”; and in team sports: “I don’t like my team, they don’t take me into account and they ignore me”.
When sport is for adults and not for children, we are pushing them to give up. When we adults view young athletes as a means of meeting our goals or those of the club, we are pushing them to quit. When enjoyment goes to the background and winning is the ultimate goal, we are pushing them to give up.
At this point, it is necessary to highlight the danger that sports in children’s ages are increasingly focusing on early specialization in a single sport, which implies very high levels of demand and commitment, and physical demands, Psychological and level of play, as well as in the time dedicated to training and competing very high, aspects that increase the pressure, which becomes unbearable, without forgetting the injuries that occur in contexts of high sports specialization compared to environments with little specialization sports (increasing the probability of injury by 81%). For decades, medical, psychological, and educational organizations have drawn attention to the dangers of early specialization.
There is a consensus in favoring a diversified sports practice that allows increasing game experiences, expertise, and what is most important: intrinsic motivation (increasing fun, entertainment and the perception of competition) and the transfer of skills learned from some sports to all. These scenarios favor the involvement and commitment of children and adolescents, their practice is more fruitful and psychosocially more valuable.
Let’s return the fun to the sport of children and adolescents (the first factor most indicated by minors between 7 and 15 years of age) because with this we will be contributing to the shape of future active adults, since these positive experiences are the ones that best predict adulthood. (more than 23 years), mainly in women.
In this sense, the role of Physical Education teachers in primary and secondary education is crucial, it is in their hands to promote a quality practice with programs that establish personal challenges and personal progress, the encouragement to compete and cooperate, increasing their perceptions. of physical and motor competence with realistic objectives, such as learning sports skills, making friends, feeling part of the group, enjoying exercise and valuing effort, which will undoubtedly contribute to greater adherence to physical exercise and sports practice. Children and adolescents have their rights when they practice sports, and these force adults to forget their own objectives in favor of theirs. Do they have the right to practice and train in a healthy environment that would push them to leave the sport?
Educational centers are obliged to promote and maintain healthy levels of physical activity to help achieve active adults in the future. In this sense, the role of physical education is fundamental, ceasing to consider it a minor subject. The use of sports programs in the school environment is important, programs focused more on promoting development than performance. Programs in which children and adolescents learn to master skills, enjoy their peers and improve their competence. Programs in which winning or losing are not the central axis of the same.
Let us remember that sport is a space in which both moral and immoral values can be learned, and that it is not the sport itself that is important at this age, but the experiences it generates. Hence the importance of adults who are sensitive and respectful of child development, where schoolchildren learn that success has to do with the effort to try to be a little better every day, as the famous American basketball coach John Wooden pointed out on many occasions. : Success is showing peace of mind as a direct result of the satisfaction of knowing that you did everything possible to be much better than what you were.
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Source: EL PAIS