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Karen Brennan
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What is the best age to begin organized sports?

Monday, April 14, 2014

The last section in the chapter on schedules is about sports.  You may already be feeling pressure to get your child involved in organized sports.  In the Waldorf schools, we don’t introduce competitive sports until the sixth grade.  In early childhood and first and second grade, the children play their own games.  There is organized movement, like circle time and eurythmy.  In third grade, the children begin taking gym and playing imaginative cooperative games.  In fifth grade, when the children study Greek and Roman history, they also participate in a pentathalon.  They learn the classic events:  javelin, discus, long jump, running and wrestling.  They practice these events throughout the year.  I love to see those fifth graders heading to the beach with their javelins to practice.  In the spring, at least at our school, they gather with other Waldorf fifth grade classes from the area and are divided into city-states.  At the pentathalon, the children are really competing against themselves, trying to do their best.  Laurels are awarded for both truth and beauty.  If you would like to read more about them,  check out our gym teacher, Andrea Shaffer’s blog post about the pentathalon.  When the children are in 6th grade and up, they are then ready for the competitive/opposititional sports of adolescence. 

Of course there are children at CWS who participate in sports before then, some with great enjoyment.  But Kim writes about the “professionalization” of sports for children—children specializing at younger ages.  He cites a study that found that many children are burnt out from sports by the age of eleven, just when this type of activity would serve them well.  He isn’t opposed to organized sports, just too much and too young.  He is “against the way that we’ve transposed adult endeavors—with an adult sense of competition, fanaticism, and consumerism—into children’s lives….When kids younger than ten or eleven become occupied with organized sports, especially to the exclusion of time for free, unstructured plan, that involvement can cut crudely across their progression through a variety of play stages that are vitally important to their development.”  He gives a lovely description of what children learn from play children make up—where they make up rules which may stay the same or change or be discarded.  They create their own imaginative pictures.  In organized sports, the picture is already complete and defined.  And a child’s role in that game may become even more restrictive as they become better at it.

Life is also simpler for parents of young children when free play is emphasized over organized sports and martial arts.  Did any of you—or your siblings or close friends--play sports intensively when you were young?  How was the experience for you?  Do you think that the picture Kim Payne paints of sports and the child under ten rings true from your own experience?
When we return from spring break, we will begin discussing Chapter 6, “Filtering out the adult world,” an interesting and perhaps challenging chapter in Simplicity Parenting.

Spring Break is next week, so there will be no Parent Child classes until Tuesday, April 29.

Screen Free week is May 5-11.  You can get lots of information at

On Sunday, May 4, we will have a gathering for all of our Early Childhood and Parent Child families from 10-12 at Albion beach.  Hope you can make it!  I will post more information at the end of the week.