As preschoolers continue to grow and get ready for Kindergarten, many are exposed to what is considered another great milestone in many communities: T-Ball! This is often the child's first (of many) experiences playing team sports. Many will enjoy continuing in this tradition through their high school years, and I am not going to downplay the necessity for the exercise, teamwork, and fun that many children do experience while playing team sports.
As a teacher with experience working in many different environments, I have steered my children towards dance and dance performance for their exercise, teamwork, and fun. Here are my reasons why:
While playing team sports, the team members must work together for a common goal. However, nobody can erase the competitive aspect of playing team sports, and that competition is at the heart of the game. We all know the kid who got pushed to the sidelines because he or she was not as athletic or as skilled as the other players. Nobody on the team wanted to risk that this kid would make the team lose. Nobody cared that this kid might actually want to play.
For every team jumping up and down because they won, there are the kids on the other team who are disappointed. No matter how well they played, they failed. Success is judged by one small thing, and the rest of the experience gets discounted.
People can have fun, develop skills, and work as a team without having to compete with others. The "other team which we must beat" is not a necessary element for children to learn to work together. As a matter of fact, it is healthy for children to learn to work together in a variety of contexts, and it is unhealthy to learn to be competitive in every situation.
Every Winter, my son dances in The Nutcracker produced by the local dance academy. He has been doing so for four years. The cast and crew of The Nutcracker are a team. The success of the team depends upon each member being the best that they can possibly be. There is no risk, if somebody makes a mistake, that they will have to sit out for the rest of the production. On the contrary, each member depends upon the success of every other participant. Therefore, they are much more likely to help each other improve, correct mistakes, and work in a truly collaborative fashion. The better they all do, the more glory they all share. They are not competing with another cast and crew, just with themselves. The teamwork and mutual support they give each other is inspiring.
This is not to say that team sports are all bad. On the contrary, in addition to the amount of fun that can be had playing sports, children who grow up with sports do have ample opportunities to learn and choose to display "good sportsmanlike" behavior. My concern is more with the numerous and likely situations in which people display "bad sportsmanlike" behavior. People need to grow up learning that competing with somebody else is not the only way to work toward success.
It is tantamount to children's well-rounded education and personality development that they experience what it is to participate in pure cooperative and collaborative group endeavors. These children will best learn to be supportive, to truly work as a team, to compromise, as well as to lead others toward success.