The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!


Many  parents  express  concern  about  how  to  help  their

children  who are involved in competitive sports.  They  need to

find  an alternative to the usual, “Do your   best” or  “Get  out

there   and   win”.
In their planning,  gym teachers attempt to create a balance

between individual and team sports but team sports always seem to

take precedence.   I believe the best programs are the ones which

help  the  children  develop individual  physical  fitness.   The

skills  the  children  develop will help  them  throughout  their

lifetime  and  they can continue to develop them  by  themselves.

Programs  in  European schools seem to concentrate more  on  this

aspect of physical development than American schools do.  An end-

of-the-year  program  in Denmark I saw had all  of  the  children

demonstrating  calisthenics.  The children had great control  of

their bodies and were enjoying themselves and each one was a star

to his or her parents.
Programs  that  concentrate  more on team  sports  seem  too

exclusive.   The  natural athletes are chosen to play,  excluding

the  remainder  of the children who would also benefit  from  the

exercise. It hurts not being one of the chosen few. A quote  from

an  article  written  for  a high  school  newspaper  illustrates

this  very  poignantly:  “Most  articles one reads  about  school

sports   deal with  the superstars who,  in one way  or  another,

excel  in   some aspect of a particular sport.   But  what  about

those  athletes  who are only mediocre or those  that  try  their

best,  but  still wind up on the bench the entire  season.    And

what  about those poor souls who  went out for a team and  worked

their  butts  off only to  have their  hearts  broken  when  they

were  cut  from  the  team.   For  a change   we  would  like  to

acknowledge   the  other  side  of  the  glamour  of   scholastic

athletics:   the  people  who were cut….  There is  a  lot   of

untapped  potential in those who are cut.  So  next  time  you’re

watching  the superstar Jock score fifty points in the big  game,

think  about  the poor guy in the stands who  just  wasn’t  quite

good enough…..”
Parent involvement  with competitive sports should  be  to

encourage  the  children and to be ready to help them  deal  with

rejection  when  they  lose or fail to  make  the  team.  It  is

important  that  parents not become overinvolved and  set  higher

goals than the children can achieve.  Discouraged children do not

enjoy  themselves  and  the  main purpose of  being  involved  in

competitive  sports  is  for children to feel  good  about  their

bodies and themselves. I think it is also important for parents to

monitor  how  the  coach approaches the  children.   The  message

should not be given that winning is everything and that  anything

goes if it achieves that end.
Parents can best help their children by using these words of


**  You’re making progress

**  You’ll make it.

**  You’re improving in ____.

**   You may not feel you’ve reached your goal but look  how  far

you’ve come.

**   Since you’re not satisfied,  what do you think you can do to


**  How do you feel about it?
**  It looks as if you enjoyed yourself.
I  encourage you to use them with your children instead  of ,”Get

out  there and win” and to monitor these activities to  determine

that your children are learning good sportsmanship and team spirit

and not the opposite.  Otherwise competitive sports and games may

be doing more harm than good.



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