BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Well-meaning but overzealous parents can ruin team sports for kids -- and some who start at age 3 can lose interest by middle school, U.S. researchers say.
Sandra Sims of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Education said child athletes have two needs -- to have fun and feel worthy.
"I don't think any adult would do this purposefully, but some have taken the joy away and that is killing sports," Sims says in a statement. "Children age 6 and younger need unstructured play. Period. They want to pick up grass, throw rocks or play with butterflies, meanwhile parents are saying, 'You're going to be an NFL star' to their 2-year-old. We often treat them as mini adults."
Most children should not commit, or specialize, in one sport until they are age 15. Sims recommends parents let children complete a season in one sport and then evaluate it and talk about exploring other choices.
"Don't worry that waiting will negatively affect their chances of getting a scholarship," Sims says. "Switching sports lets your child to decide which they like best and are most willing to work at to excel in."
Parents should be aware that being on a sports team may not mean a child is fit -- wearing a uniform does not mean a child gets 60 minutes of physical activity each day, this depends on the sport, the position they play and how much time they get on the field, Sims says.