Life is a Sport

Why and how to raise “sporty” children

Kids today.” It’s such a timeless and all-encompassing phrase, used over the span of generations to denote the way that things and people change over time, and the ways in which those changes are reflected in our youngsters. One commonly held perception of children in the new millennium is that they’re too distracted by technology to bother to play outside or engage in physical activities.

Often, busy parents compound this issue by providing their children with iPads, computers, and gaming systems to keeping them pacified over long periods of time with technology acting as their de facto babysitter. It’s an easy fix for parents who are overwhelmed by their children’s persistent and interminable energy levels.

Health Beyond Childhood at ISSP

The jury is still out on what the longterm effects will be on the adult lives of children who live sedentary lifestyles, interacting more with technology than they do other human beings. Conversely, what has been proven is that there is a plethora of reasons to raise athletic children who engage regularly in competitive physical activities. International School Saigon Pearl (ISSP) – the only international elementary, early years’ school in HCMC to have the prestigious accreditation from the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), prioritizes sport’s education from an early age. One of the ways that the school accomplishes this is by giving parents some tips on how to raise kids to be sporty.

Inactivity Causing Obesity to Rise in Ho Chi Minh City

Problems related to physical inactivity are endemic in Vietnam. Studies show that lifestyle in Vietnam is one of the most sedentary in the world. A 2017 Stanford University study showed that Vietnamese adults averaged a total of 3,643 steps a day, falling significantly below the global average of 5,000. Vietnam was only seven slots from the bottom of the list, topped by Hong Kong whose citizens take an average of 6,879 steps. 

The 2016 Joint Annual Health Review published by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Health Partnership Group (HPG) found that 28.7% of Vietnamese aged 25 and over don’t exercise at all with 25% of young people saying they don’t participate in sports. The same study found that people who don’t exercise are 20-30% more likely to die younger than their counterparts that exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. 

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Healthy Adulthood Starts in Childhood

Children in Saigon are especially prone to becoming overweight, with the obesity rate of school-age children reaching 19% as recently as 2016. Clearly, raising active kids who place value on exercise and developing athletic ability as well as an overall healthy lifestyle has benefits that will add to their longevity and happiness! 

There are also less obvious benefits to engaging in athletics and competitive sports. Children who get involved in organized sports at a young age experience advantages that span their lives. Athletic children grow up with more positive body images, are more high-achieving in their middle and high school years, and less likely to engage in drug abuse. Lester Stephens, Head of International School Saigon Pearl chimed in, “Children can become better communicators, develop a strong work ethic, and learn real teamwork [through sports].”

These young athletes also learn how to cope with failure. American basketball phenom LeBron James imparted this wisdom, “You have to be able to accept failure to get better.” Sporty children develop the wisdom to realize that what might initially look like failure can become a doorway to success with the sharpening of their skills and the forging of their determination.

Early Parenting Tips for Raising Sporty Children

Start Early!

It’s never too soon to start getting your children in touch with their inner athlete! A baby makes tremendous advances in her physical skills and movements, for example. Children want to move; they just have to be encouraged to continue to do what their bodies want to naturally. Rae Lang, Deputy Head of   School, suggested getting babies
to respond physically to sensory output, “Ring a bell so she’ll turn her head toward you.” Also, get your baby out of the stroller! Children need space to move and to master new movements. Time spent playing and exploring on their belly will help your baby to develop balance and orient themselves. These first movements and responses will be the doorway into your baby’s athletic future!

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Level Your Toddler Up!

Toddlers provide an obstacle in that they easily get bored or frustrated when presented with challenging activities. The key is providing them with short-term challenges that will help them further develop their agility. Something as simple as blowing bubbles and having your child pop them (an almost instinctual response, as much as chasing and dispersing flocks of pigeons on the ground) will help a child’s hand-eye coordination. At the same time, they’ll learn valuable running and jumping skills. Capitalize on the fascination children have with balls by always having a kickball, a beachball, or small rubber ball handy. This will give your child experience with the ways that balls roll and bounce. Simple activities like letting your child walk on your bed will help them develop balance as they try to navigate an unstable surface.

Go for a Team!

Children should take part in age-appropriate team sports or recreational leagues. It is also important for sports instructors to remember that “it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.” A coach’s emphasis should be on having all of the kids participate, not just for the team to score points while more challenged players are bench-warming.

International School Saigon Pearl (ISSP) understands their role in helping to foster happy, well-adjusted, and dynamic children by providing an abundance of opportunities for students to engage in athletics and various physical activities. At ISSP, children have a chance to experience various sports including basketball, football, swimming, martial arts (kickboxing), ballet, yoga, aerobic, and especially Smart steps program (for Early Years – only ISSP has this program in Vietnam). ISSP approaches sports with the awareness that playing sports serves to keep children healthy, but also provides important lessons that they will carry on with them throughout their lives beyond their school years. Playing sports is just as much about building character as it is about building athleticism which is why ISSP’s key message has been “beyond academic excellence, we nurture character.”

We hope these early-age parenting tips from ISSP will help you send your child on a trajectory for happiness as well as good physical and mental health.

  • So when it comes to your kids, don’t be a sideline coach. Be active and engaged in your child’s athletic life with the knowledge that it goes hand in hand with his or her academic path.
  • Assist your child to forge a winning spirit, while helping them understand that the lessons they learn in sports are the real victories that they’ll carry with them throughout their lives.
  • Remind your children that in every aspect in their lives the only way they truly lose is if they give up, and that the strongest competition they’ll ever have is the one with themselves. They should always be striving to be better than the person they were yesterday. This is the true victory in life.

Text and Images Provided by ISSP

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