Hockey playing on bench sitting with his head down

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Are Sports Too Competitive?

Many professional athletes have spoken out recently about the stress of playing sports. Is the pressure to win a good thing, or should highly competitive sports get a time-out?

YES: Sports should be fun, not stressful.

TEEN PHOTOS COURTESY OF FAMILIES

Elyn: I believe the increasing competitiveness of sports has made them too stressful for teens. Playing on a team isn’t about having fun anymore. Now it’s about being the best, making the most competitive team, and even getting an athletic scholarship to college. According to studies, baseball players have a heart rate of 170 when they are at bat, and about 20 percent of soccer players experience high levels of stress, especially after games their team lost. And the pressure isn’t just in traditional team sports. As a dancer, I go to dance conventions, where it’s all about learning the combination the fastest and performing it better than anyone else. If you mess up, you feel horrible. Sometimes I feel like I dance, dance, dance, but I’m still not as good as everyone else. I love dance, but everyone involved in sports should start focusing on having fun again.

—Elyn Franson, a high school junior in Washington State

NO: Competitive sports teach you how to learn from your losses.

TEEN PHOTOS COURTESY OF FAMILIES

Gavin: I’m a goalie on my soccer team, which means that sometimes my whole team is counting on me to make sure the other team doesn’t score. The pressure can be stressful, but it’s also exhilarating, which is why I don’t think competition is a bad thing. As athletes, we train and work hard for the win. When we do lose, we’re forced to examine our actions, to understand that there is a consequence for poor performance, and to strive to do better next time. In this way, athletic competition builds resilience and prepares us for real-world stresses. I believe that playing sports has taught me to control my emotions under pressure, which will allow me to be a more successful adult. Life is not just about winning but also about how you handle losing. That’s why the lessons sports teach you about managing the stress of competition are so beneficial.

—Gavin Villepigue, an eighth grader in Connecticut

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