Here’s an interesting stat — according to a nationally representative survey from the Aspen Institute and Utah State University, close to 3 in 10 students who were athletes before the pandemic no longer want to play organized sports, and it’s an increase of almost 20% from June 2020. Blame it on lack of motivation or anxiety about getting back into the swing of things, but the consequences are already unfolding, with the number of overweight and obese students increasing and fitness levels plummeting in our youth. If you’re a parent, here’s why it’s worth talking to your kids about martial arts as an alternative to traditional school sports.
It’s an Individual Sport with a Community Behind It
Not everyone is into the team sport dynamic, which tends to center around competition and a winning-is-everything mentality. In martial arts, it’s not about winning and the competition is a personal one. The emphasis is on character, self-confidence, discipline, and respect. It’s about working toward a specific goal and failing multiple times on the way. It’s about being better than you were yesterday and about achieving things you maybe didn’t know you were capable of achieving. That can be really appealing to a kid who’s sick of team sports, pandemic or not.
The beauty of this sport for kids is that while you’re only judged on your own abilities, and no one else’s, you’re one of many working toward a similar goal. That shared experience naturally builds camaraderie and fosters support and encouragement. It’s gratifying when someone knows exactly what you’re going through to reach a goal, and it can be a real opportunity to bond. Basically, martial arts encompasses the best parts of a team, without the very real downside of being pitted against one another for playing time.
The Side-by-Side Comparison
Let’s outline some of the highlights of martial arts in a straight-up comparison with just about every traditional school sport you can imagine.
- There are no tryouts
- No one rides the bench
- There are no winners and losers
- It’s open to all genders
- It’s not seasonal
- There’s no predetermined definition of success
- Students are free to work at their own pace
- It builds life skills that are valuable on and off the mat
And like football or volleyball or soccer or basketball, martial arts is a physical activity that benefits your kid’s fitness. But unlike those other sports, it’s a functional form of fitness without the risk of overuse injuries so common to kids’ sports these days.
Martial Arts is for Everyone
By high school, and in some cases even middle school, missing a season or two of a specific sport means being passed over in terms of ability. You just can’t compete anymore with the kids who are playing year round. But with martial arts, there’s no perfect time to start. Actually, we take that back. The perfect time to begin is when you start thinking you may want to try martial arts. Everyone starts as a white belt, and your progress is directly linked to your effort. For a kid who knows what it’s like to put in the work but simply lack the innate physical ability of the team superstar, that’s pretty refreshing.
There could be any number of reasons that fewer kids want to get back into sports, but maybe we can see it as an opportunity to do something else. Martial arts has so many things going for it, and the best way to see if those are things that will benefit you is to jump right in. If your former athlete is resisting a return to traditional school sports, we invite you both to come down for a tour of the school and an opportunity to meet our instructors. It could be exactly what your kid needs.