Keeping the kids busy with sports

I do not know how other people tackle this so I can only write from our perspective. Even before Nathan and Nathalie were born we were thinking about what hobbies they might have later on and what sports they might be interested in/ being forced to do by us. Might sound a bit harsh but then again all athletes I know who managed to reach certain levels were the ones who were pushed by their parents during their “difficult years”. All others who could choose for themselves quit their sports latest by the age of 15. Now I do not have any ambitions like that as I want to see for now how Nathan will develop and what his interests are as we are trying to give him broader choice of sports compared to ourselves.

Back in the day at the Finnish Nationals (I was second in the 200m freestyle)

My wife did some sports as a kid in form of table tennis for a couple of years and ballet. Both sports she had to quit as her wonderful mom didn’t see any value in sport activities and instead put her into afterschool programs till evening. Ever since I can remember I was swimming in a club. I started when I was around five and continued till my twenties. I clearly remember when I had no motivation anymore around the age of 13-14 as I did not really improve anymore and my father basically dragged me to each training session by driving behind me in his car to make sure that I actually went to the pool. By the age of 15 I got more than enough motivation to continue as I got suddenly better and better and wanted to push myself as far as possible. During my “prime” I had 21 trainings sessions a week of which were 11 times swimming from Monday will Saturday and 10 dryland sessions (gym, running and even yoga). This resulted each day in over 5 hours of sports and this all while still being a high school students going to class from 7am till 3pm.

Nathan has tons of fun thus far


Right now our little Nathan is four years old and is doing once a week Taekwondo. He loves it thus far and is asking us several times a week when the next class is. I actually got the idea for Taekwondo due to my best friend who was in the very same club back in the day and did the sport till he reach the first Dan (first black belt level). I also wanted to try out the sport when I was eight years old but somehow did not dare to really join them as I was a very very shy little boy back then who easily got scared by new things. Nathan is completely different and he joined the other kids in an instant. We will also register him at my old swimming club but for that we have to wait till he is six years old (weird regulations here in Germany I must say). It is actually already 100% sure that he will at least do some swimming in the club, afterall we/ I decided on his name due to the very famous Nathan Adrian!

So why am I writing about this? When I was talking with Nathan’s coach she told us that for the past years less and less kids are continuing the sport once they finished elementary school. Usually the kids have multiple sports/ other activities each week and can’t focus on any properly which results that barely any athlete in the club is performing on any higher level, not even reaching the State Championships. The last one who managed it to even European Championship level was their daughter (both parents are coaching at the club and her husband has even 7th Dan!). So growing up with such parents a kid has the best possibilities to reach something in the sport or sadly they might also crumble under the pressure.

He tries his best and it is funny to see his clumsy attempts when doing some kicks

All friends we have with kids do not want their children to do any sports. In their opinion sports are a waste of time and the kids will only get hurt. I on the other hand believe that a sort of competition in young years is useful for the child in order to grow. Here in Germany is even a discussion still going on to remove sports competition from schools as some kids will feel left out and even to remove grades in PE.

Were you doing sports when you were young?

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25 thoughts on “Keeping the kids busy with sports”

  1. So the kids that I see excelling now in sports had the opposite experience of the ones you saw succeeding — those pushed so hard by their parents that their sport was no longer anything but drudgery quit by age 14. Our one decent American soccer player, Pulisic, pushed his parents for more and more soccer — a nice bit of reverse psychology there.

    1. How interesting to hear a story where the kids actually had to push the parents! Only saw such stories from the movies (such as Billy Elliot).
      I know several kids with overambitious parents who failed as they could not meet the expectations but even more who succeeded. But then again I know only “few” athletes and never checked on anything beyond the swimming world around me.

    1. Too many kids these days (even 20 years ago already) are too much inside in front of the tv, phone, tablet, computer etc. Many kids from Nathans sports club arrive with their own mobile phones to play even though they are just 5-6 years old!

  2. It is exciting to hear that Nathan quite likes Taekwondo. Maybe he will get even more excited about swimming when the time comes. From the photo of you standing second, I can’t decide if you look happy or sad 🙂

    As a kid, my parents never encouraged me to do sports. Like you said, some parents think sports hurt their kid and is a wasted of time. But my school in Malaysia and Singapore were very encouraging of badminton and table tennis, both of which I enjoyed and played for leisure. I tried my hand at netball and let’s just say I am a very short person and my aiming at the net is horrible. Each time I threw the ball up to the net somehow it would bounce out and slow down the game 🙂 At one point I also tried my hand at billiards, and really the games with balls on that you play on a pool table.

    1. I actually had to check what netball is! I am terrible in any other sport than swimming and never really had interest in following them. I think netball is something unknown to me as for example floorball might be unknown to you 😀

      The picture of me, well I was both happy but also a bit sad as I did the race in a terrible manner and lost first place due to that/ didn’t even noticed I was overtaken in the last few meters as I slowed down confident in me winning it!!

      1. LOL. Pretty sure you have heard of basketball…it’s pretty similar to netball. I have actually head of floorball – it is a kind of hockey which Australia is good at 😀

        Terrible manner but still come in second place. That is good. But that feeling must have been so dejecting and horrible when you didn’t realise someone overtook you until you finished the race 😀😀

      2. I managed more or less alright especially as the guy who won was my teammate and it was his last “official ” competition as he wanted to retire from the sport.

        Didn’t know that floorball is known in Australia. In Finland it is super popular and everyone can play it. Everywhere people ate playing it but then again Finland Is a big ice hockey nation.

      3. Your teammate had a wonderful last hurrah and finish from the sport then. It makes you sound like a nice guy.

        Lol, Australia is also pretty big on hockey. The women’s hockey in Australia seem to be the most prominent and they call themselves the hockeyroos 😀

  3. I went to tennis lessons for a couple of years when I was quite young, I played volleyball sometimes in P.E. and dodgeball during school recess, but I was never really a sporty kid, haha. I haven’t thought about what my kid will learn, I think it’s a bit early for that!

    1. Haha yeah usually it is tad bit early to think about such things before the child is born! I guess it came up for us as I was so much into sports back in the day and I do not even know life without doing something on a nearly daily basis even these days

  4. I love this discussion you’ve raised, and the equally interesting notion from parents not to put their kids through any sport or exercise program.

    Growing up in Hawaii, we were always outside and fairly active. But I never had the discipline of sport. I had the discipline of piano, and I tried karate when I wanted to be in the same class as a cute guy, but that was hard work – and not for me 😛

    My brother and his wife are big on putting his kids through sport. The boys play football/soccer. And Molly, who is the only girl old enough to do sport, is into cheerleading, which is like gymnastics, very physical, the stuff she’s posting on FB!

    I think it’s a shame that kids aren’t pushed to play these days. Working as team or gaining discipline from the physical activity, all good things. And yeah, getting hurt is part of growing up!

    1. It is really sad that so many kids here are just whole day inside watching tv or just their phones…when I was a young kid i was everyday outside with other kids from the neighbourhood. Today I don’t see any kids outside just playing and discovering the world

      1. I totally agree.

        I remember reading statistics about the younger generation also learning how to drive a car later than previous generations, and no longer getting summer jobs. But they are also less likely to be sexually active and get into drinking and drugs. Parents are definitely creating a “safe bubble” for their children.

  5. My two older grandchildren were always very good and serious students. But their parents believed that every child must also participate in sports for their health and to be well rounded. They encouraged/forced both of them to be relatively active in sports all the way through school. Although neither of them reached a high level in any sport, they learned to enjoy them and to develop some skill.

    My youngest grandchild has natural ability in all sports. He’s nine years old now and has a very active sports schedule after school and on weekends and summer vacation. His best sports are Taekwondo, soccer, tennis, and swimming. He also plays basketball and baseball. He has a lot of energy. Fortunately, he still has time to do well in his studies.

    Girls weren’t serious about sports when I was in school. Too bad.

    1. Indeed girl around your generation and before that were often discouraged from following sports seriously. This can be still seen in many sports events at Olympics/ winter Olympics. Just look at ski jumping…women weren’t allowed to jump till 20 years ago!
      My mother never did sports either as there were not many activities and also no time for it as she helped out at the farm and had to learn a job shortly thereafter

  6. Sigh a wrote a long got lost. 😦

    That’s great Nathan enjoys Taekwondoe.

    I’m a strong believer of exposing children to a range of sports to help them find something they like. They don’t have to be great at it. They just have to enjoy something that keeps them doing it over time for their health, self confidence and motivation as a life lessons…applicable later for other things.

    I returned to cycling at 31 yrs. because I had happy memories of bicycling as a teen. All through school I was never good at sports. I did enjoy softball in school for a few years then dropped out. So now cycling for transportation and fitness for past 25 yrs. now. I would have never dreamt this would have happened nor many who know me well.

    Of course it helps that my partner bicycles and encourages me….and shows me routes, etc.

    1. I also think that it is very important to expose childrne to different sports.
      You are kind of similar when it comes to bicycling as my father. He did bicycle many years but only due to his work (postman). After his retirement he saw in Finland some people cycling and they asked him to join their practice days. Ever since that time he is cycling each day in Finland during his 3 months stay each year…

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