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Opposite viewpoints: Should youth sports be recreational or competitive?

Many families of young athletes prefer to have their children play sports only a few times a week. This allows the child to be well-rounded in his hobbies and interests. However, with the intensity of kids' sports being so high, many teams are playing everyday. Parents tend to fall into one of two schools of thought regarding youth sports: those who view sports as purely recreational and those who see them as a competitive activity.

It's all fun and games
According to The New York Times, some families don't want their children living and breathing sports. Not only does a schedule of constant practice, games and tournaments take time away from family dinners and homework time, it also requires a lot of money. When a child plays a sport, the parents become highly involved. It's a whole family effort.

According to ESPN, USA Hockey - the national governing body for the sport of ice hockey in the U.S. - encourages designing youth sports around building skill sets rather than pushing kids to be competitive. Picking up some used hockey sticks to practice maneuvers in a focused environment a couple times a week is more beneficial than pounding the ice everyday. 

"At the youngest ages, we shouldn't try to develop hockey players," Bob Mancini, a regional manager for USA Hockey and a former collegiate hockey coach, told ESPN magazine. "We should develop athletes who love hockey."

Those families that do not want their child competing very hard should look for leagues with relaxed schedules. Make sure the child can miss practice for a piano recital or other activities. This way, children can dabble in different recreation.

Playing to win
Other families support the competition often associated with youth sports. According to The New York Times, children can learn about teamwork and the realities of winning and loosing by playing sports. Intense schedules allow children to learn a skill more thoroughly than they would in a more lenient environment. Regular focused training develops expertise and familiarity with the sport. Children who participate in rigorous sports walk away years later with physical confidence. Even if the child doesn't end up as an Olympian, he or she will understand hard work and will experience a positive self-image. 

Not only do children learn skills in sports, but those devoted to their craft know how to take direction well. Athletes know that their team cannot succeed without a group effort. Competitive teams care more about winning than about making individual choices. This causes them to work together and develop a desire to improve. 

More than anything, rigorous sports teach discipline. 

Families will chose whatever route works best for them. There is no right and wrong way to do sports, as long as the child is enjoying it while learning and growing. 

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