Kids’ sports should support, not sabotage, family’s values

The Sports Apologist
Peter J. Piscitello is the executive director of the archdiocesan Cath- olic Youth Organization. He can be reached at: pete@cyojwa.org.

by Peter Piscitello

Studies show that involving your child in youth sports has tremendous lifelong benefits — from promoting healthy physical activity to aiding in social and cognitive development.

A good program should also play an important role in a child’s moral and spiritual growth.

Yet youth sports are experiencing a hidden crisis. While millions of children still participate, a 2016 report by the Aspen Institute’s Project Play initiative shows the number of kids ages 6-12 engaged in a healthy level of active play is actually down to just 26 percent of the population.

Furthermore, participation in nearly every single team sport is down across the country from 10 years ago. The downward trend is consistent with ages 12-17. Why is this?

I would propose two key issues. First, families have more things than ever competing for their time. Technology inside the home provides many options, but promotes a sedentary lifestyle.

Outside the home, there are thousands of options from entertainment to the academic, each promising to provide incomparable value. While there are many great ways to spend your time, it’s also harder than ever to decide what’s best for you and your child.

Second, the trend toward early specialization is a real problem for today’s kids. Children are now encouraged to choose a single sport from an early age, often participating many days a week year-round.

Driven by business considerations of manufacturers and clubs, the cost of youth sports has become prohibitive for many families. Others have paid the price to enter a system that actually has negative effects on mental and physical health, as well as skill development.

As families, we need to promote the healthy development of well-rounded children. First, take a moment to step back and assess what your priorities are as a family. Make sure that any activity fits within your family’s ability to live a balanced, healthy life centered on Christ.

I would encourage you to make physical activity one of these priorities by involving your children in youth sports. However, allow them to try different sports each season, limiting to just one sport at a time. You’ll find that, long term, your family benefits spiritually, mentally and physically from this approach.

Our CYO is committed to this balanced approach and has several different youth sports available throughout the year. With a focus on developing your child’s faith, character and skill, we invite you to see how these distinctly Catholic programs can provide a wonderful experience for your child.

We’re also looking for parents to promote CYO values by volunteering as coaches and administrators.

Visit your parish or go online to: www.cyojwa.org to learn more about how you can join this movement! Registration for the 2017-18 year begins in early May.

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