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The Child Athlete and COVID-19

For decades now, a process has been occurring—it’s getting increasingly difficult to convince children to play sports. This is a generational issue; the virtual world has taken over the lives of children, overshadowing the need for exercise. Sadly, the professionals leading the sporting world are unable to do anything about this, and because they tend to treat the child athletes uniformly, the effects of their attempts are unpredictable.

The joy of playing sports

Even among influential executives, very few people are aware that children, depending on their personalities, start playing sports for myriad reasons. There is a lot of generalising going on regarding this, hence all the solutions also work in the same way. But the different personalities have widely different motivations to start, or not start, playing a sport. In addition, the fact that a child keeps playing a sport because of external pressure or getting stuck in a particular sport are two separate categories. Nowadays, a child’s very first sport is often started under the influence of parental coercion. A good parent, therefore, pushes their child heavily in the direction that sports are a requirement. Of course, this is good on the one hand, but on the other hand, if something starts out of coercion, the chances of it not working out are higher. In addition, if there are coercive effects in the beginning, in many cases, the child does not even have the opportunity to find a suitable sport. So, they might be interested in playing sports in general, but a particular sport will discourage them from doing it again forever. It must be noted that not all children start playing sports because they enjoy the exercise. Someone rarely starts because of this. Some children live in an environment where playing sports is seen as cool. They are only interested in the sport as long as it makes them the most popular out of the bunch. But for this, they have to perform well, so the risk is substantial. Some want to start a special sport, one that amazes people. The children who prefer rare sports want to be treated as unique by their peers. They don’t like traditional sports unless they receive special attention for their talents, attention that they couldn’t get anywhere else. Most kids want to be a member of a community, and they love to play with their peers. They are not particularly interested in the results, nor are they competitive types, even if their parents often try to convince them to be more competitive. And some children consciously want to find a hobby that, for some reason, really interests them and they want to achieve the best possible result in it. It is, of course, a well-known fact that physical movement releases chemicals that have a serious impact on a child’s mental state, but “joy of sport” alone is less relevant professionally. It is critical that when we talk about the fact that we want to change the trend at the youth level, and we want to steer more children in the direction of sports, we should be aware that there is no universal technology for this that influences all children!

Dangerous COVID Effects

Even though we are used to it by now, we can’t talk about trends without mentioning the pandemic situation that started in 2020. This is also true for youth sports and for getting children to love sports. The adverse effects that predate COVID, which are pushing children more and more towards virtual existence, have been significantly intensified by the virus. In addition, the sport designed as the worst enemy of traditional sports are esports, which have evolved considerably in recent years and now cover affect the motivations of almost every child. Moreover, in children with certain personality types, esports offer far more possibilities than traditional sports. This is especially true for the kind of children for whom sports are ways to gain attention and become a star, as they can achieve an exponential level of stardom far faster within an esport framework. This target group was already in critical condition before the pandemic, as the shift towards virtual sport was specifically measurable in it. Change can be measured in children for whom sport means belonging to a community. Until recently, this has meant physical engagement, but the virus has significantly transformed that, and physical communities have gone almost entirely virtual. Idols are also of particular import to this group, but idols were primarily champions playing in packed stadiums or winning the Olympics. Since these idols are mostly on hiatus, new idols emerged in the meantime. Those who are comparable to them, sometimes a mere 14 or 15 years old, who achieve impressive results in their field of competition. In addition, all this is associated not only with international fame but also with serious money. Many times, parents no longer even argue with their children about the virtues of traditional sports versus esports disputes. It should be added that a true esport star needs to be at the top both physically and mentally, otherwise success will be short-lived there as well. But even this depends on the specific type of sport.

One thing can be said for sure: youth sport has a lost a year that it will never get back. It is also certain that traditional methods will have to be modified significantly if we want to ensure that the number of children wishing to play sports does not fall sharply. To do this, however, it is necessary to consider what moves the child, what are their basic motivations for starting sports, and what motivates them to continue playing sports.