The importance of sport for kids

Many, many years ago, before we even had kids, my husband said: ‘When we have kids, we will make sure they do lots of sport’. And I thought yeah right, whatever…

His thinking was that sport would keep them out of trouble as teenagers. Teenage trouble hasn’t been an issue for us, but then again, my kids do a lot of sport…

It turns out my husband was absolutely right all those years ago. Sport has been the making of my kids. It has given them so much. Much, much more than I ever would have thought possible.

Sport is good for us as a family. I believe we spend more time with our teenagers and have a better relationship with them because of sport. If they’re not running or walking with us, we are supporting them in all they do. We are taking them to training and going to watch competitions. We are talking to them about their dreams and their goals and helping to make them happen.

We didn’t push the kids into sport from a very early age. My younger son did pre-school football, then he didn’t do any for a few years. He started playing club football and rugby when he was 7 (he might have been 6 when he started football). My daughter started street dance at 4 and ballet at 6. (Anyone who doesn’t believe ballet is a sport really knows nothing about ballet).

The least sporty of my kids is my eldest. It may or may not be a coincidence that he started rugby at 10, so was already a bit behind the others. He stuck it out until he was 14. But despite that being the only organised sport he’s ever done, he has remarkable endurance and stamina. He did a 30 mile walk on a Scout camp when he was 14, the Three Peaks when he was 16 and ran Cheltenham half marathon when he was 17.

After playing football and rugby for many years – often up to five or six days a week playing one or other of them – my younger son is now focused on his athletics. Although he would definitely still play football or rugby for the school if he ever gets the chance again!

After years of ballet, my daughter has made room in her life for athletics too.

In non-Covid times, my son will do athletics training at the club three times a week, plus whatever school sport is on offer.

My daughter has three dance classes a week – two ballet and one tap/ jazz, plus one or two athletics sessions at the club.

But it’s not just about the organised sport. My kids are active and competitive all the time, even when they can’t train and can’t compete. I hear and read so much about kids being inactive in lockdown, of teenagers who literally don’t leave the house for weeks (despite having no medical condition to keep them at home). And my kids aren’t like that at all. Sport and activity is in their blood. (Dr Juliet McGrattan has written a really important post about the importance of movement for teenagers in lockdown.)

They’ve grown up with sport and activity and movement and they’re not going to stop because we’re in a pandemic.

I read a lot about kids struggling with lockdown – and that is perfectly understandable. My kids miss school and their regular activities, but being motivated to stay active at home is really helping them.

My son still does sprints training in the road two or three days a week. He does a Zoom yoga class with his dad once a week. He runs a couple of 5ks a week – including our family (not)parkrun. He lifts weights at home.

Sprinting, Sunset, Running, Son, Teenager, Silent Sunday, My Sunday Photo

Lockdown sprints training

And he walks a lot with my daughter.

My daughter embraces school PE challenges. She does fitness and stretching routines at home and has choreographed a dance for her school house dance competition. She has just started the family (not)parkrun again after a few months off and cycles with my husband and I when we go for a long run on a Sunday.

My son is determined that when athletics training and competitions, plus his Youth Talent Programme, come back that he will be ready. Ready to jump, ready for a PB, ready to work towards school and club records.

Long jump, Son, Athlete, Silent Sunday, Sunday Snap, The athlete and the shin splints

I love how active and determined they are and I love the things they embrace. I celebrate every victory with them, however big or small. My son has an obsession with jumping up and hitting branches on trees while we’re out. That’s probably not ‘normal’ 17 year old behaviour, but I love it as it is a part of him. To be able to jump long, he needs to jump high too. He’s always saying ‘Do you think I can hit that branch?’. And if he doesn’t hit it, he tries again. And again and again until he does.

The other day he showed me a yoga/ gymnastics move that he’d been practising for three days before he perfected it. For a skinny 9-year-old girl who did gymnastics, it would have been nothing. But for a 17-year-old boy who has had real problems with his flexibility in the past, it was a massive achievement.

And I celebrated that fact. I celebrated the fact that he could do it. But also the fact that he wanted to do it and that he’d put the work into achieving it.

So it turns out that my husband was right all of those years ago. Sport is important for kids. We didn’t force them into it, we just gave them the opportunities and they ran with it. They chose their own direction, they stuck with it and it has given them so much.

Fitness, strength, passion, determination, competitiveness. What more could you ask for?

Sport, Athletics, Parenting, Family, Teenagers

Photo by Massimo Sartirana on Unsplash

Author: Sarah Mummy

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10 Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. It isn’t for all of them but the positives they get from the physical side and the social side of sport is incredible and opens up so many opportunities for them too. I am so glad my two boys both love rugby as it has been such a positive for both of them. Let’s hope they can all get back to it soon.

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    • It is a brilliant thing and I’m so glad my kids have it in their lives. It’s great that your boys have rugby too. I think even kids who lack natural talent can get a lot from it and become skilled if they start young and stick with it. I know some kids get similar benefits from things like art, music and drama, but they don’t have the advantages of being outdoors and moving a lot.
      Let’s hope it is back very soon!

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  2. This is great to read and makes all the running around taking my two to various sports and activities seem even more worthwhile. I do agree with your husband as well. I always worried when my siblings were kids that they did hardly any sport. It concerned me that they might go off the rails because of it. Thankfully they’ve all done very well for themselves but that doesn’t stop me from aiming to steer my kids towards sport just in case!
    Nat.x

    Post a Reply
    • You’re definitely not wasting your time taking the kids to all of their sports and activities! Hopefully they will find one or two things that they really love and stick with through their teens and beyond.
      That’s interesting about your siblings. I love that you worried about their lack of sport! X

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  3. This is a great blog. I really love the way you have just made exercise an expected part of the family routine but at the same time you don’t put pressure on your children to join in. They choose to do so because they enjoy doing it and that includes sharing it with you. It’s a huge credit to you that they have been so self-motivated to exercise during lockdown and not to be afraid to try new things. Total respect.
    Thanks also for the link to my blog. I hope it’s helpful to your readers.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks very much. I do think we’ve got a good balance with the kids in that we’ve given them the opportunity to try things that interest them in their own time and have led by example, and they’ve just stuck it out. I’m sure lockdown has been easier for us all as a result.
      I really hope my readers took the time to read your post too. It is really thought provoking.

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  4. You know what I feel is missing from this post – is what excellent role models their parents are. You inspire me to move so that my children will model it and think of it as normal like your family do.

    Well done to your children on all they have achieved.

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    • Thanks very much, that’s a lovely thing to say! I think I’ve inspired a few people to get moving. My dad certainly wouldn’t do parkrun if it wasn’t for me!

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  5. I totally agree. I loved sport (and dance) from the age of 8, my brother played a lot too and was naturally more sporty than me and he is still v active despite having chronic fatigue syndrome. I’m just lazy now, although I need to lose weight so I can start playing tennis again, especially now N will be leaving my ability behind soon). I’m glad N enjoys sport too. He isn’t so keen on trying organised sports, but he loves the different sports they try at school, and is a hard worker, he likes to improve so that’s what drives him rather than the competitiveness. I think he’s helped by being on the farm, because while he doesn’t have the friends around where he lives like I did growing up, where we all used to play games, ride bikes, skate and do sports on the green outside our houses, he enjoys being outside, or on his bike, walking the dogs, and obviously playing tennis. It’s definitely a great discipline and while I’d love him to do some music too to become more well rounded, as well as nurture what talent he has there, I just hope his enjoyment of sport will continue into secondary school. I’m worried it will lessen, because the 2 sports he loves – tennis and hockey- won’t be played by boys at the secondary schools. So just hoping there’ll still be his age group tennis to play in as he grows, outside of school

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    • I usually did one sport at a time through my childhood – mainly karate from the age of 12, although I gave up suddenly at 22 and never went back. I’ve always been OK at sport (although terrible at racket sports) and always enjoyed being active and being outdoors.
      It’s great that N enjoys it so much and I hope he can keep that enjoyment at school. He will need to learn to love football and rugby!
      It’s never bothered me that kids don’t have musical talent or interest, but I know for some people it is a good alternative to sport.

      Post a Reply

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