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An Overview of Children's Sports Psychology

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An Overview of Children's Sports Psychology

According to the authors of The Handbook of Sport Psychology the problems in sports are on the rise, but the number of athletes is diminishing (Siner, 2001). Are these problems the barrier and reason to why parents do not send their children in sports? Or are the children choosing not to play based on lack interest or since they too see the problems? Despite the "dark sides" of sports, including the "fine line" of aggression, and competition levels, Parents should be aware of the benefits like fun, teamwork, and physical exercise in their younger children, who play sports.

In a newspaper called the Vancouver Sun, there was an article about two fathers fighting in the stands, over a call made by the referee in a hockey game. Their words came eventually to blows and as a result one father killed the other. This is one of the problems stemming from over specialization, the practice of encouraging a child at young age to specialize in one sport and become extremely good at that particular game.

The parents involved had their children playing in the Peewee division, the youngest division in hockey. These parents bent on making their child the best ruined their lives and those related to them, through this stupid act of violence. Shane Murphy writes in his book, The Cheers and the Tears, the reason why parents act this way is not because they are bad parents. Instead it is the result of strong emotions aroused in a parent, by seeing his child, his flesh and blood locked in a competitive struggle with other athletes. Shane is also convinced ego is involved, stating those parents who have a problem with their ego being crushed when child looses a game, would be better of at home than to come out to the ball field to support their child.

Some hints directed to parents with children in sports are to; provided money to buy equipment, and regularly attend games. Accompany the child to major league games, and advise them that they can be as good as the stars. Practice regularly not only with your child but with his or her teammates as well. When correcting use positive measures and allow the child to learn at his or her own pace (Siner, 2001).

Specialization in sports is not only bad for the children who are training to be the best, but it also has a negative affect on those children who are trying to play along side him or her. The children who are underdeveloped suffer, since they are never chosen for teams, or are left on the bench. It could be that in reality both players share equal potential and maybe equal ability, but what is not equal is access on the field. This occurs a lot with children as they reach puberty. Those children in the same grade who start early have an advantage, since they have the looks of a fifteen year old, and the "Late Bloomers" have the look of a nine year old. The "Late Bloomers" are left behind and their hidden skills never developed until they reach puberty, unless in the worst case, they quit before they reach puberty.

Moving on to the topic of opposite sex participation in sport, we can see many gender differences in sport, and some of this causing again, more problems in this atmosphere. With the knowledge of different motivators and interactions between genders parents can avoid potential problems by knowing where to look for them. The European Federation of Sports Psychology has conducted many surveys and studies on this topic and written a couple of articles, one being Gender and Sports Participation. A general example of differences between genders is that males in sport are generally driven and motivated to succeed in a sport, contrary to girls who are driven and motivated to avoid failure. Another example that can be a potential problem is the different connections are made in sports. Contrary to males who create relationships with their teammates, females tent to bond better with their coaches. For the most part this does not pose a problem, but there are some examples of sexual abuse, for example; Diana Nyad, a Fox sports correspondent has come forward with her story of being raped by her swimming coach. Her career surprisingly flourished but she did end up in therapy from being emotionally upset. It takes years for these stories to come out and according to the European Federation of Sport Psychology (Fepsac, 2002), this is due to an athletes dedication to the sport and included with that comes the coach. The coach is looked up to as a teacher and mentor it takes a great effort to come forward with your stories when you have all the pressure of "not to tell" from the coach on the child. Another reason children don't report sexual abuse is partly because of the team. The team becomes a family over the years and there is a huge bond of trust and togetherness, a child doesn't what to ruin his "family" by reporting an abusive coach. Although sexual abusive coaches are a small minority, the numbers are rising, do to the new gender equality laws. The reason being is clear, coed teams can now be formed and some coaches have started to sexually abuse the younger, opposite gender children (Murphy, 1999). This is not meant to scare parents in any way, some coaches are close with the players, this is how a good team should be; close nit. A parent needs to have an active involvement with their child in sports, thus lowering the tendencies of sexual abuse and allowing the child to benefit from the coach, team and parent.

Steroids or its substitutes play a large role in the dark side of sport as well. Parents who are determined that their child will be the best have gone to the extent of putting their children's health at risk with body and muscle enhancers. The typical side affects are well known, both physically and mentally. Steroids are an addiction thus increasing the severity of users. Steroids decrease the reproductive organs in the body as well as stunting the whole body's growth. The increase in muscle mass is temporary, only lasting until the user quits working out, and the muscle converts to fat. Steroids mess with the mind like a hallucinogenic causing the user to see him or her as always weak and needing to work out harder. Steroids also increase hostile aggression.

Aggression is defined as a behavior, not an attitude, and this behavior is an act to injure someone, either by physical, verbal, or gestural abuse. Aggression is then broken down into different categories; one is hostile aggression, where an athlete is set on injuring an opponent for personal reasons. Second, there is instrumental aggression, in which an athlete will injure an opponent for the sake of the team winning the game. Third and last is assertive, this is not considered aggression, but in many cases causes injuries. Assertive is like



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