Does Sport Build Character?

There have been numerous studies on how sport develops character.  Yet, the conclusions of these studies conflict.  Some claim sport has positive character development, while others state negative development.  Some even found that sport has no effect at all on character development.  In truth, sport can have all of these effects on character development.  It all depends on who the athlete is and what situation they are in.  If they are to experience positive or negative character development, or for sport to have no effect at all on their character.

Sport can have positive character development on children from all social classes and from any type of domestic situation.  Children from a more privilege family can experience positive character development with a supportive family unit.  Parents who do not treat their child as a “little professional” and instead encourage/reinforce the positives of sport.  Such as hard work, team work, fair play, and respect, their child will benefit greatly.  These core values and skills the child learns from sport will stick with them and will be beneficial in all aspects of life.

On the other side, children from a lower social class or from an abusive family unit can experience positive character growth as well.  These children can use sport as an escape from other aspects of life.  While learning core skills and values on their own in an attempt to improve their life.  As much as the child and family have to do with their positive development, coaches and sports administrators have an equally important role.  They have to develop a trusted and respectful relationship with their athletes.  The creation of an environment where the athletes can have fun while being challenged is essential.

Despite all of the positives of sport, if the child does not want to participate or is in a bad situation, sport can lead to negative character development.  If the child has no desire to participate in sport and they do not withdraw from the program.  Sport can have a lasting negative impact on the child.  The child will not have fun or learn anything positive from the experience.  Sport can have an even more negative impact on children who want to quit sports but are afraid their parents will disapprove or not give them the attention anymore.

This will develop tension between the child and the parents, as the child fears of what the parents might do if they drop out of sport.  Children who enjoy sport can experience negative character development by abusive parents and coaches or ones that push you too far.  Parents and coaches can abuse the children sexually, physical or verbally for a number of reasons, such as not working hard enough, not being that good at the sport, or the results of a competition.  These actions can have long-lasting effects on a child.  In turn, the child may believe this is the correct way to act when they are older, leading to a continuing chain of abuse.  Or the abuse may be to great psychologically or physically for the child and they slowly break down on the inside.

In addition to having positive or negative effect on character development, sport can also have no effect at all on a child’s character development.  Some studies show that some children who choose sports chose that sport because they already have the pre-existing skills and character required for that sport.  It takes a certain personality to choose individual sports over team sports, or poker over football.

There is no clear-cut answer if sport can build character or not.  It depends on many factors whether a child will develop a positive or negative character through sports or for sport to have no effect at all on their character.  The factors that help influence this development are family, coaches, and the child themselves.  Sport is not the only activity where children can develop character.  There are many activities and hobbies available for children to participate in, and they should be encouraged to explore them.

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