Parents often ask me whether I think it is a good idea to allow their child to play sports or participate in extracurricular activities even though they are struggling in school. They feel the time would be better spent if they worked longer on their lessons. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “Sports help children develop physical skills, get exercise, make friends, have fun, learn to play as a member of a team, learn to play fair, and improve self-esteem.” The same can be said of many after-school activities. For these reasons, I always recommend that parents allow their children to play sports or participate in other after-school activities even if they are not doing well in school.
When students work together toward a common goal, they build a spirit of camaraderie and responsibility that are difficult to experience elsewhere. This happens on sports teams as well as other team activities such as being in the school play or on the forensics team. Students also learn how to be good sports even when things do not seem fair. When the referees or judges make a call the team disagrees with, students learn to accept it and to not let it affect their ability to play. If the game does not turn out well, students learn that failure does not have to define who they are as a team. They learn to work harder to become stronger, so they will do better next time.
The most important reason to allow struggling students to participate in extracurricular activities is allow them to find an area where they excel. Everyone needs to feel capable and confident. If they cannot feel this during the school day, perhaps they can experience it playing sports or being on the robotics team. I agree with John Wooden when he said, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” Your child should spend plenty of time showing you and others how capable he is.