Research Paper: Youth Sports

Pages: 4 (1552 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Sports  ·  Buy This Paper

Youth sports have become a way for children to become distracted from the outside world. Sports shield children from the environment if they are at-risk youths or sports may create a sense of comrade among children from different socioeconomic backgrounds. However, what makes youth sports such an essential component of a child's upbringing is sports ability to build character. Ethics and morals can be learned through sports, therefore developing a child's ability to distinguish between right and wrong. Sports are also credited with affecting self-esteem and relationships between peers. However, aside from the advantages that sports offer, there is a difference between how sports affect both boys and girls.

Character is an attribute attained while learning the art of sports-playing. This term is defined as, "the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual" (merriam-webster.com). Character is built through the dedication and loyalty that children learn while playing sports. This feature, along with integrity, defines what sports attempt to accomplish. It is because of this that children learn what it is like to work together. Although character is "distinctive to an individual," it is a virtue that is learned through interactions with others.

Sports build character because it allows individuals to develop as a member of a team. Playing with others means that one needs to also pay mind to what the other team members want to do. Most sports are defined by working together with one another and making sure that the relationships built will inevitably allow them to come together and win at an event (Fraser-Thomas et al. 2005). Aside from winning however, sports build character by laying out rules that need to be followed. Ethics and morals are taught in a way that will allow individuals to decide what is right and what is wrong. Once the rules of a game are presented to the players, the players need to decide whether or not to follow those rules. As stated previously, playing sports is not just about winning, but also about having the integrity to get tested on an individual's skills and abilities. It is this decision-making process that allows children to build their own character (Gould and Carson 2008). A child can decide to cheat throughout their entire sports career, or they may choose to follow the regulations that are put forth. Making this decision will eventually define the individual, as the child becomes a product of his or her decisions -- eventually leading to the building of character.

As character is built, so is an individual's self-esteem. Children nowadays are constantly exposed to the media and the superficial images that they are supposed to follow. Sports however, changes most of that. When a child finds something that he or she is good at, they automatically feel more powerful. Sports build this sense of pride in one's work and in one's ability to get things done when working together (Gould and Carson 2008). An individual's self-esteem is held in high regard when playing sports. As aforementioned, the idea of being successful at something, while at the same time enjoying that same success, allow children to build their self-regard and self-esteem.

Differences between individual and team sports affect how an individual views themselves, although the positive aspects of sports and character are still present; character is still built either way. However, the way that children in sports see themselves may change according to what type of sport is played and with whom. Individual sports help build confidence in oneself, as one is solely dependent on no one but oneself (Fraser-Thomas et al. 2005). It allows confidence to be built and pride to be had once an individual realizes that is it because of them only that they are able to excel in their particular sport. Team sports however, allow for children to have to think about others aside from themselves. They are dependent on their team members to play their sport and they need to be able to have enough confidence in themselves in order for their team to succeed (Gould and Carson 2008). In all, sports have the same overall outcome -- they build self-esteem and character regardless of whether the sport is played independently or as part of a team.

Developmental advice can be offered to parents and coaches alike when it comes to sports. Parents need not reinforce preconceived notions of what it is like to be a girl or a boy, but let their children discover who they are on their own (Messner 2009). Sports are a great venue from which to do that. Encouragement from parents to pursue which ever sport a child deems appropriate for them is highly recommended. Coaches may also follow this advice by treating girls and boys the same in their sports. By creating an equal ground from which to base everyone's performance, children will not feel as if they are not as good as the other gender, or that they are better than the other gender (Schmalz and Kerstetter 2006). By fostering a positive environment, children may forget about their gender differences, and be able to excel regardless of what they have been told that they can do or not do.

Despite all attempts at gender-neutralizing sports, there is still quite a difference in how the two genders react and learn from sports. The effect that sports have on youth depends on whether one is male or female (Schmalz and Kerstetter 2006). There are always going to be "male" sports, such as football and hockey, and then there are "female" sports like tennis and softball. It is difficult for the opposite gender to transition into a sport that is attributed specifically to the other gender. This affects youth's view on themselves and what they can or cannot do. Being able to participate in any sport regardless of decree or judgment can be impossible if for example a female is seeking admission into a male-dominated sport (Schmalz and Kerstetter 2006). There are two extreme reactions and interpretations to this particular situation. Females can either be fully accepted and will in return develop a great sense of self and acceptance, or the complete opposite could occur. A female may feel out of place and never truly accepted by their peers. The love for a sport may be abolished if the individual never truly feels included by her teammates. This notion contributes to the great difference between males and females when it comes to sports.

The differences between girls and boys also heavily influence the attrition rate for girls in high school. Girls are more likely to drop out of a sport as they get older (Schmalz and Kerstetter 2006). Again, it comes down to the nature of the sport. In high school, girls go through a lot of developmental changes that influence their decision on whether or not to stay in sports. They get caught up with boys who are at times not impressed by a girl playing a sport, and in high school that means that girls start to drop out of sports that they may have been playing their entire lives. This contributes to the high attrition rate among girls in high school (Messner 2009). However, what needs to be changed is not the sport itself, but the culture that surround sports. Genders need not be a deciding factor in whether or not a male or female should play -- it's the love of the game that should really matter.

The redefinition of sex roles is definitely having an impact on the "male perspective" of sports. Although there is still a significant amount of work that needs to be accomplished in order to change the culture all around, much progress has been done in terms of gender representation in mainstream sports. This redefinition of who possesses the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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