We’ve heard about the benefits of team sports for today’s youth time and again. It’s good for the body, the mind, and the soul of any kid to become involved in a team sport. But can a player get worse at a sport from team practice? Only under very few conditions — most of which have nothing to do with the activity, but more to do with coaching style. Below, we’ve outlined the pros and cons of playing on a team and everything that comes with it. In general, team practice can only improve your child’s physical ability, cooperation, sense of self-worth, and level of integrity. According to Sport New Zealand, there are numerous  reasons to include sports and recreation in a child’s routine:

“Sport and recreation opportunities provide an environment where children and young people can learn the values of teamwork, goal setting, self-discipline, following rules, respect for others, respect for the environment, coping with winning and losing, and success and failure.”

Benefits of Team Practice

Getting involved in a team sport could be the best thing your child could do. The benefits far outweigh the potential drawbacks. First off, regular physical activity is important for anybody. It is known to prevent chronic illness, to strengthen the immune system, to alleviate things like anxiety and depression, and foster a sense of wellbeing and self-esteem. In addition to all of the obvious physical benefits, team sports teach kids how to cooperate with one another, to commit to a routine, to work together to achieve a common goal, to celebrate wins and face defeats gracefully and with a good attitude. It’s also good for the social life of a child to be involved in a team sport. Not only does it bring kids together on a regular basis, it’s a fun bonding activity. When there’s a game at stake, there’s no room to be at odds with your teammates, which is why team sports are one of the healthiest social activities for middle and high school aged children. In addition to physical and social benefits, team sports and regular team practice offers kids a valuable structure to work within. Structure is an important aspect of any healthy lifestyle, but it’s particularly important for kids. Having to attend regular practices, games or meets promotes a sense of discipline and helps kids to organize their time in a more efficient and effective manner. When the schedule is full, it’s almost impossible to procrastinate or get into trouble.

The Importance of Practice

We don’t become skilled at something without a dedicated, consistent practice. Regular team practice not only demands that kids show up on a consistent basis, they help kids succeed by creating opportunities for them to improve and become skilled at whichever sport they’re participating in. A sense of accomplishment and confidence is essential to establishing self-esteem, something that, if children develop early enough, will help them throughout their lives. If everything came easily to people, such things as a work ethic and a sense of duty wouldn’t exist, and those are essential life skills.

What Makes for Good Team Practice

There are a few things that will allow your child to make and get the most out of team practice.

First off, creating a safe physical and psychological environment is a must.  Bullying and unfriendly competition won’t help the team, nor anyone. This responsibility will fall on the shoulders of the coach and assistant coach. As long as this fundamental rule is upheld and kept in place, kids will be more comfortable and have a better chance at succeeding.  

Modeling appropriate behavior is another important aspect of a positive team practice experience. If coaches and parents are too invested in winning, and express themselves aggressively, the sense of fun and ‘play’ is ruined for the players. There must be a balance between excelling and celebrating victory while keeping things in perspective.

The same goes for maintaining and fostering an inclusive attitude when it comes to team sports. Making adjustments to accommodate all different kinds of abilities is another way to model positive behavior and discourage things like bullying and negativity.

When Team Practice Doesn’t Work

Team practice always has the potential to be healthy and beneficial for a team and its players, however in some specific instances they can hinder, rather than help, the players’ progress. For one, practices should enhance the players’ skills as well as protect their bodies from injury due to overuse. Therefore, practicing every day, seven days a week, will ultimately be detrimental. It’s best to have a rest day in between practice days. Another common rule is not to specialize in a single sport until adolescence. This is done to avoid overuse and physical injury. Plus, kids often need exposure to a variety of different activities so that they can make an informed decision as to which to focus on in the future.

In most circumstances, team practice can do nothing but help your child succeed. However, at its worst, it can be a pressured environment where kids are more likely to get injured (physically or psychologically) if certain rules are not followed. Remember, team sports should, among other things, be fun!

Pittsburgh-based Hustle Training is a growing startup created for the sports-driven players and coaches out there looking to up their game and maximize performance potential. Their website coupled with the mobile app makes it easy for players to improve their fundamentals and move on to master advanced techniques by providing crafted workouts and drills created by college coaches, professional players, and expert trainers.