Team sports like soccer can have a positive impact on kids and their self esteem. But when it comes to competition, there is a fine line between the joy of winning and the stress of losing. Too much negative stress will make a child quit before they can even discover the passion.
According to experts from a psychological and cognitive standpoint, a child should be at least 6 years old before participating in an organized team sport where the focus is competition.
Positive stress comes from an inherent pressure to be better by mastering new techniques. It’s healthy. On the other hand, negative stress is external. It can be the result of unrealistic parental expectations, angry coaches, or a lack of mastery in the ability to balance school work and perfecting soccer skills.
Fortunately for every stressful experience, there is a choice in how to approach it. To minimize negative stress:
See the glass half full … always. Superstar goalies aren’t always pro midfielders. If a child fails at one skill, they’re probably a lot better at another one. Helping young kids find what they are good at teaches positive thinking and prevents the road to life long self criticism.
It should never be about winning. Teamwork and mastering the skills of the game should always come before focusing on that trophy. Winning comes naturally when the priorities of sportsmanship are set.
Keep life balanced and schedule down time. It may seem counter intuitive to schedule non structured activities. Yet these days kids’ schedules are packed to the brim and before you know it, it’s bedtime and they had no time to just chill out. Allow time for kids to be kids. Set up a paint set, give them a chance to put on a play, or whip up some cookies for the team.
Encourage talking about their feelings. Address fears head on and come up with a mutual strategy, then reward kids for following through. Kids will learn to deal with difficult situations without repressing bothersome feelings that may lead them to act out in other ways.