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Interview Dr. Edgette

Life is More Than a GAME

Dr. Janet Sasson Edgette is a prominent psychologist with over 25 years experience in family and child counseling. Among her many accomplishments is her latest book, The Last Boys Picked; Helping Boys Who Don’t Play Sports Survive Bullies and Boyhood; a book that encourages young people who are not athletically inclined to hold their head high and be the wonderful, unique individuals they are in a world where sports is often over-valued. NOTE: For more information on Dr. Edgette’s books and services, visit The need for physical activity for the sake of a healthy body and mind cannot be discounted, though, so where’s the line to be drawn? How much effort should parents put into encouraging their children to participate in sports?

Dr. Edgette: Most parents understand that it’s important for their children to sample a variety of sports before deciding they’re not cut out for that type of activity. It’s important, however, to have some idea of why your child might appear disinterested or try to avoid sports. For example, some kids just hate being ‘beginners’-even at something they’ve never done before and that no one would expect them to be able to do well. Some kids will avoid being beginners at any cost-even if that ‘cost’ is discovering an activity he/she would enjoy and possibly even excel in. In an instance such as this, it will help greatly if parents will share openly with their children about a time they were beginners at something (sports or otherwise)-the anxiety, self-consciousness and other feelings they had. Parents can share the process they went through of pushing forward to success OR not pushing forward. That’s right-not all lessons come from success stories.



Sometimes our kids do better when they hear about how their parents struggled when they were kids. Seeing you now and knowing you once struggled in much the same way they are, gives them self-confidence and removes some of the pressure they feel to be perfect. Another possible route to take to alleviate the ‘beginner syndrome’ is to give them the benefit of a few private lessons before joining a team. How hard should parents push their children to participate in sports? Dr. Edgette: I think that encouraging participation and discussing the child's aversions are important, but once that turns into repeated pushing, it's time to stop. Nothing positive will be accomplished by pushing forward despite a child’s unhappiness in participating in athletic endeavors. Children soon feel they have no voice in their own family or life-that no one is taking them seriously. Parents need to understand that not every child is meant to play sports. They do need physical activity-we all do-but physical activity is not the same as playing sports. Another important aspect of parenting non-athletic children is to make sure they are not feeling as though they have failed or disappointed you by not being athletically inclined. This is especially important if you, the parent, is athletic or the rest of the children in the family are. Parents need to actively address this issue-taking the initiative to tell their

non-athletic children how proud they are of their accomplishments and/or knowledge in other areas. Your children will probably not let on as though they crave your acceptance or approval of their academic or artistic endeavors, but they do. Absolutely! As I was reading your response to this question, my mind was immediately drawn to a family where the two daughters (3 years apart in age) couldn’t be more different. The older one is musically talented and more of a bookworm, while the younger one is equally intelligent, but a go-getter in the world of sports. Their parents also enjoy music, but the mom plays on a couple of city leagues and the dad is a radio sportscaster. Often times the older daughter has confided in me her feelings of being a disappointment or just not as loved because she doesn’t ‘do’ things. Dr. Edgette: That can be difficult. Some children don’t like being a part of a team; they just prefer working alone. This shouldn’t alarm parents or make them fearful they’re children aren’t socially adept. Children get plenty of ‘team time’ working with groups and partners in school. Some children aren’t so adverse to playing sports, but have no desire to compete. They don’t have the drive to push someone back to put themselves on top. And then there are those children who have learning or developmental disabilities or who struggle with visual-spatial skills. Hand-eye coordination as well as other motor skills and


balance are essential in many sports, so when a child lacks those things, they naturally shy away from them. Let’s expound on your comments about children not being adverse to being physically active, but not wanting to be an athlete…what suggestions do you have? Dr. Edgette: First and foremost, the sport or activity needs to be an experience in self-discovery. A child needs to feel they are learning, growing, accomplishing and enjoying what they are doing. If they aren’t, it’s time to stop. The most helpful thing parents can do is be easy-going about their child's "search" for the right sport or activity so that the spirit remains one of curiosity and self-discovery rather than "hurry up and pick one." If a child is enjoying what they’re doing, no matter how accomplished they become, they’re successful. But if they are being pushed and prodded, the whole situation will turn into a miserable experience for everyone involved and a demeaning one for the child; complete with resentment and tension. But if a child wants to be active, and likes the thought of the social aspects of a team but not the contact and intensity of team sports, you can suggest sports such as track, swimming, rowing, bowling, or even horseback riding. For those children who really are more of a ‘lone ranger’, activities such as martial arts, cycling, hiking, kayaking, marathon running, swimming, dancing, fishing, hunting and shooting sports such as skeet. Even walking works. In other words, you don’t have to be athletic, per se, to be healthy-I think it all comes down to giving those children who aren’t as athletic the same recognition and encouragement given those who play sports. It’s about giving children the right to be who they are-not what society tries to push them to be. Dr. Edgette: Parents need to be keenly aware of this and let their children know how they feel: “I know sports aren’t your thing and I want you to know I don’t need you to be involved in a sport to see how great you are. I’m happy watching you do something you enjoy doing.” Or if they’ve been trying the whole ‘sports thing’ but are clearly miserable, a parent could say “I know you gave it your best shot even though you weren’t crazy about playing. So let’s just forget it so you can put your energy into something you really enjoy.” Parents make mistakes, but overall, they have their child’s best interest at heart. But what can parents do about the obvious partiality shown to athletes when it comes to getting recognition in the way of awards and scholarships? But what about academic, musical and artistic excellence when it comes to scholarships? Dr. Edgette: This is a very important question and one that needs more attention from



parents and schools, alike. As the mother of twin boys (both high school seniors); one of whom was offered a baseball scholarship and one who dislikes sports altogether, this is an issue that is close to my heart. College sports are an enormous industry and an effective way for schools to bring in money for the benefit of both athletic and academic programs. Therefore, the sports scholarships

are the ones everyone talks about and pays attention to. That being said, there are a number of amazing scholarship opportunities available to students which are non-athletic in nature. Due to their non-athletic nature, they don’t get much attention, though, so finding them and applying for them is something students need to pursue aggressively.

Some of these include: • Scholarships from alumni or special interest groups • Scholarships for ethnic backgrounds • Scholarships for father’s occupation • Military family scholarships • Scholarships for handed-ness(!), hobbies and even your birthplace • Scholarships for areas of study Your student’s guidance counselor will also be able to point them in the right direction(s) for applying for non-athletic scholarships given by civic groups and businesses based solely on academic merit, leadership skills, community service…but not athletic ability. I think we can all agree that the ultimate goal of a parent is to love their child just because and to embrace their uniqueness and foster them to do the same. For more of Dr. Edgette’s valuable information, you can visit her website:

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Life is More Than a Game: Kids and Sports  

Not every child enjoys sports, so how much effort should parents put into encouraging kids who don't want to play sports when all it seems t...

Life is More Than a Game: Kids and Sports  

Not every child enjoys sports, so how much effort should parents put into encouraging kids who don't want to play sports when all it seems t...