Sports programs play a significant role in the normal development of a child. However, research by Chumak-Horbatsch (2012) shows that sport is increasingly becoming less popular in modern society. Children currently prefer playing video games instead of the traditional sports that involve physical exercise. Parents are keen on purchasing video games for their children to keep them indoors while they are away working, believing that it is the way of ensuring that they are safe.
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The trend has led to a situation where many children rarely engage in any meaningful physical activities after school (Mumford & Jackson 2015). This research is very important because it outlines the benefits of physical exercise among children and explains how parents can be involved in ensuring that their children are actively engaged in various sports both at school and at home. Brown (2016) defines perception as an opinion that one has towards a given issue.
The researcher will ensure that the research is as objective as possible by avoiding any form of bias. In the study, the researcher will look at the perceived role of sports programs in childhood. The following is the specific question that the research seeks to answer.
- What is the significance of sports programs in children’s development?
- The above question was supported by the following questions to broaden the scope of the study.
- What are children’s perspectives on the impact of participation in sports?
- What are children’s views on their voices being heard and having multiple choices?
- What are adults are (parents and practitioners) views on children taking part in sports activities?
According to Cooper (2013), when conducting research, the primary aim is always to introduce new knowledge or to expand the existing ones. As such, it is very important to review the existing literature to avoid duplication of information (Munnell 2012). The existing literature helps a researcher to understand what other scholars have found out in a given field of knowledge and areas they view gaps exists and how the gaps can be addressed (Brock et al. 2013).
That is why in this section, the researcher will conduct a comprehensive review of the existing literature on this topic to form a basis for this research and to know of the best approach that can be used to expand knowledge in this field. According to Devarakonda (2013), parents are increasingly having limited time to spend with their children. In the past, women were expected not to engage in income-generating activities so that they could take care of children (Kettl 2013).
However, that has changed in modern society where both men and women have to work to generate income (Nickerson & Sanders 2013). Most parents leave in the morning and come back late in the evening, almost daily (Kettl 2015). Some leave before children are awake, only to come back when they are asleep (Levine & Munsch 2013).
Every parent wants his or her children to be safe despite the limited time they have to spend with them (Wellard 2015). As such, they come up with means and ways of ensuring that children are safe when they are away (Trussler & Robinson 2015). One of the greatest fears that parents often have is a possible kidnapping of children by criminals who may want ransoms or any other sinister motive. Other parents fear that their children can be physically injured when they are allowed to play in the field without proper adult supervision (Rostan &Vaira 2012). As such, a trend has emerged where children spend limited time engaging in physical games (Vu, Fredrickson, & Moore 2017).
Immediately after schools, they get locked in the house playing video games or watching movies. Most parents are very comfortable having their children engaged in video games instead of outdoor games because of the above-mentioned fears. Bradford (2013) says that there is always the feeling among parents that a time will come when they will spend more time with their children after amassing wealth and securing the economic future for the family (Sargisson 2012).
However, something often comes up that makes it difficult for parents to have quality time with their children in outdoor settings, which means that children are forced to remain indoors for a long time (Lloyd & Oliver 2014).
How Children View Sports
According to Barter and Berridge (2012), children from a tender age love games. For children aged 7-10 years, playing often take the center stage of their lives. They want to remain active all the time as long as their physical conditions allow them. In the past, children would engage in various outdoor games such as hide and seek, role plays, football, running competition among others (Jarvis et al. 2016).
However, that has slowly changed over the years and these physical sports are no longer very popular among children, especially after coming from school. While at schools, the rules and regulations force them to go to the field and engage in physical sports (Kauffman 2013). Some of them even avoid such physical exercises at school because it no longer gives them the fun they desire (Baker & Farrow 2015).
Children have become so addicted to video games that they can hardly enjoy football games or hide and seek that used to be very popular in the past. They want to spend every little time they have before the screen playing video games. Briggs (2012) says that some children have to be forced to stop playing with their computers to go to sleep. The trend is not easily going to change based on the new focus that the business community has given to online games. Large multinational corporations have learned that video games have become so popular among children that they rarely have time to engage in other activities (Skott & Ward 2013).
As such, they continuously come up with more interesting games for these children, making them glued to their screens. Parents, believing that by having children remain indoors while they are away is the best way of keeping them safe, are investing in these new video games to limit the movement of their children (Solly 2014).
Children’s view of sports is defined by what they are exposed to more often (Berk 2013). That is why children are likely to be engaged in football every time they get the opportunity to play when major international football tournaments are presented on their screen (Spores 2013). They get to identify with some of the best players such as Christiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. They want to demonstrate to their peers that they can be as good at football as the stars they see on television.
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That is why every child would want to be Christiano every time they play because of the desire to identify with such a prolific footballer. Children who spend considerable time watching football will try to engage their peers in this form of play (Tayler & Price 2016). That is so because what they constantly see is what forms part of their lives (Rebello, Engle, & Super 2013). For those locked away from the outside world, their choices become limited and physical games become less important to them.
Perceived Benefits of Sports Programmes in Children’s Lives
In a study that was conducted by Drifte (2014), sports programs have numerous benefits in the lives of children, especially those aged between 7-10 years. One of the main benefits of sports programs is that they help in the physical development of children. When they regularly engage in sports, they strengthen the body muscles and bones (Stewart 2012). When children actively engage in sports, they become healthier than their colleagues who avoid sports.
They are less likely to get obese. This is specifically important for children whose parents are obese and have a higher risk of acquiring the condition. Regular engagement in physical activities makes them vulnerable to the condition because the excess body fat is often converted to energy during the demanding physical exercises. Dickins (2014) says that obesity is known to cause health problems such as diabetes or coronary diseases. When one engages in sports, these health problems pose less threat to them (Kara 2015).
When children are presented with multiple choices in sports programs, they can select games that are more pleasant to them. According to a report by Hunter (2016), children who regularly engage in sports are more likely to perform better in classwork.
Physical exercise increases the flow of blood to the brain. After exercise, the body may be tired but the mind gets refreshed, especially after long class hours. Regular exercise makes it easy for children to remain focused during class time. Flavell (2014) says that sports also make children appreciate the art of sharing and the relevance of teamwork. Playing together as a team makes them know that success can only be achieved if people get united towards a common goal (Parritz 2017). They also get to value sharing as a way of creating unity and love in their environment (Jackson 2013).
Participation, Choices, and Influence
According to Golding et al. (2012), children sometimes need their parents or caregivers to participate in various sports with them. This is specifically the case when they are at home away from their peers who they can play with. Without these peers, parents or caregivers should try to engage these children actively in sports to ensure that they remain active (Theron 2012). Children who remain physically active when they are away from school are more likely to engage more in sports programs at school than their peers who do not get the opportunity to be active when they are at home.
Hallet (2012) notes that children should be presented with numerous choices of play based on their personal preferences and physical capacities. Sometimes a child may have a physical disability that makes it unable to play some of the conventional sports popular among children. However, that should not mean they should be denied the opportunity to engage actively in sports (Usherwood 2016).
An alternative to their choice should be presented to them to allow them to remain active despite their physical disabilities. Sometimes a child may have a mental disorder that limits the nature of physical plays they can engage in when at home or in school. It is the responsibility of both the caregivers and the teachers to find alternative sports for these children. Hallet (2016) advises that there should be an attempt to influence children with disabilities to actively engage in various sports.
Remaining physically active sometimes help in overcoming some of the physical or even mental disorders that children may have at a tender age (Howard & McInnes 2013). When they are influenced positively to engage in sports, they can overcome the challenges they have physically or mentally (Information Resources Management Association 2017).
Expectations and Benefits of Exercise
According to Jarvis, George, and Holland (2013), for parents, caregivers, and teachers who allow their children to engage actively in sports, there is always an expectation that they have. For parents and caregivers, they expect the children to remain physically active at all times (Bukatko & Daehler 2012). They expect that through such physical activities, children can overcome lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and such other diseases related to the accumulation of starch and fat within the body (Burns 2013).
Teachers expect children who actively engage in sports to remain sharp while in the classroom. Cases where children fall asleep while in class should be very rare because of the constant physical activity. The benefits of physical exercise are many (Hutchin 2013). Some children come from very abusive families. It may be a case of constant fights between the parents. In some cases, the children may be subject to constant verbal abuse from the caregivers or even their parents (Bosacki 2016).
In some extreme cases, the children may be the victims to regular physical abuse from people they expect security from back there is home. When they come to school, they may have a relief from the abuses at home, but at the back of their mind, there will be the worry of what will happen when they go back home (Chepyator-Thomson & Hsu 2013). The constant stress that they have in their mind may make them less capable of concentrating in class. They may have a problem paying attention to the lessons or even other co-curricular activities that may be of benefit to them. Some may develop mental or general health problems because of constant stress (Allen & Gordon 2012). However, when they engage actively in sports, they get to overcome their mental stress and sometimes forget the problems at home for a while.
Research Gaps, Weaknesses, and Strengths
The literature review has some strengths and weaknesses which are worth noting. The main strength is the wide variety of sources that were used in the study. It was easy to see the contradictions, agreements, and disagreements in the existing literature. However, the main weakness the existing studies do not talk about how online games can be used to promote outdoor games among children. This is the weakness that should be addressed. This research will build upon what is already known by conducting primary data analysis.
According to Amelina (2012), when conducting a research project, it is important to come up with a clear methodology that defines how data was collected, analyzed, and presented to arrive at a given conclusion. In this paper, the researcher will outline the method that was used in this research so that anyone who uses this document can understand its credibility and relevance.
The researcher considered positivism as the most appropriate paradigm for the study (Bailey & Handu 2013). The study held the belief that information obtained from sensory experiences, and interpreted based on logical reason forms the exclusive and authoritative source of knowledge (Bernard 2013). It is believed that by observing children closely during play and what they say about sports programs can help determine their view towards physical exercises. The philosophy held also emphasizes on the fact that what children observe at home, in school, or any other platforms they have access to define their beliefs about the future.
The research design that a researcher chooses defines how data will be collected to arrive at a given conclusion (Brennen 2013). The researcher used ethnography in this research. The method makes it possible for the researcher to explain how a specific phenomenon happens and why (Bryman & Bell 2015). It will be possible to know why sports programs are becoming less popular in the country and how parents and practitioners have played a role in the decline. It will be possible to understand forces that influence these programs and what the stakeholders can do to ensure that children become actively engaged in sports like was the case in the past (Kuada 2012).
This approach allows the participants to give a detailed description of events and how positive change can be introduced in the educational settings so that children can be more engaged in sports programs. The study will also involve observation and interviews of participants. The researcher will take time to observe the approach that children under investigation take when it comes to games (Mangal 2013). Of interest will be to see whether these students have the drive to get to the field and engage in different physical games during breaks after the end of the lessons.
Sampling of Participants
Exploring the perceived role of sports programs in childhood development is a very sensitive area of research, especially at a time when the country is faced with increased cases of child obesity and many other health problems affecting children (McNabb 2013). The data that was needed for the research could be collected from children, parents, and practitioners. It is easy to have access to these people within the country. However, the time constraint was a major factor that made it impossible to collect data from the entire population in the United Kingdom. As such, the researcher collected data from a sample of the entire population (Pica 2015).
Sampling was, therefore, necessary when going to collect primary data. The researcher had three different groups from which data had to be collected, as mentioned above. As such, stratified sampling was considered appropriate. (Mehl & Conner 2012) Parents, practitioners, and children formed the three strata from which data was collected. In each stratum, simple random sampling was used to identify specific participants for the project.
To make the work easy, a few schools were selected to take part in the study. Each school had teachers, parents, and children needed for the primary data to be collected. Specific classes in the chosen schools were selected. The focus was to collect data from children aged 7-10 years and their teachers and parents. The sample population was 15 participants where 10 were adults and 15 were children. The sampled participants included both males and females from various backgrounds. As Fowler (2013) states, bias may affect the validity and reliability of a study. The researcher was keen to avoid any form of bias when sampling the participants.
Data Collection Methods
The collection of primary data was done by classifying the participants into two groups. Children and adults formed the two groups. It was specifically important to collect data from the children because they are the affected group (Nestor & Schutt 2014). Any policy recommendations made out of the study would directly affect them. In the past, researchers rarely engaged such young children when collecting data to be used to make important policy recommendations. This study is different.
The researcher used two methods to collect data from the children. The first method was an observation. Working closely with the teachers involved, the researcher observed how these children behave during morning breaks. Before lunch hour, there are two major breaks when children are expected to go and play outside their classroom before coming back for classes (Reis & Judd 2014). The researcher observed the behavior of the children when left alone to do what they please during the breaks.
Of interest was to determine how enthusiastic they are to get to the field and engage in different sports. After observing their actions, the researcher then engaged them in interviews. This way, it was easy to identify those who are eager to go and play, and those keen on relaxing within the school just talking to colleagues during the breaks (Coulson 2012).
It was also easy to ask these students why they preferred to go and play or to avoid physical games during their free time (Robertson et al. 2014). From the second group, data were collected in the form of interviews. The participants were interviewed using a questionnaire. They were asked to help in explaining why some students behaved in the manner they did and what can be done to influence them to behave in a given pattern.
Validity of Data
It was important to ensure that there was the validity of the data and reliability of the findings made in the study (Ross 2012). Triangulation was used to enhance validity and reliability in the study. Data were collected using multiple methods. The researcher used observation, interviews, and questionnaires to collect the needed data. By interviewing the respondents, the researcher was able to find an answer to some of the behavioral issues observed.
In this study, it will be important to take into consideration some ethical issues. According to Gast and Ledford (2014), it is the responsibility of a researcher to ensure that ethics is maintained throughout the study. The researcher took into consideration several ethical concerns.
One of the most important issues that were taken throughout the process of data collection was the need to minimize risks to the participants, especially the young children vulnerable to physical or psychological injuries (Hair 2012). The researcher did not engage the researchers in games that are different from what they are used to in their daily lives. The researcher was always close enough not to interfere with their games but capable of helping them in case of any physical risks in their games.
During the interview, the researcher was keen on listening to the views of the participants. When interviewing children, the researcher was keen not to bring back sad memories such as passing on of a parent or divorce of the parents. When interviewing the parents, the researcher wanted to capture important factors, especially the diversity in terms of marital status, sources of family income, level of income, number of parents among others. However, this was done diligently to ensure that it does not raise emotions that may affect the participants.
Before conducting the study, the researcher went to the administrators of the selected schools to get full consent to research these institutions (Hammond & Wellington 2013). A letter was written explaining the relevance of the research and why the school was chosen for the study. Data collection was only conducted after getting consent from the administrators. It was also necessary to get the consent of the teachers and parents.
The researcher informed the teachers and parents about the research. Any issue that teachers and parents were fully addressed before conducting the research. Nothing was withheld from them. However, the children were not informed about the intended research at first. This was necessary to ensure that their behavior could be observed in the most natural way possible (Yanow & Schwartz-Shea 2014). The participants had the right to withdraw from the study at any time without any consequence. They were duly informed about their right to withdraw from the study.
The researcher has responded to the issue of anonymity and confidentiality in the study. The research was keen to ensure that the identity of the participants is protected (Saldanha & O’Brien 2013). The researcher did not reveal the identity of the participant. Their names were not used. Instead, they were assigned letters and digits that identified them as learners, parents, and teachers. The data was destroyed after the study.
The researchers were debriefed after the study just to confirm to them the importance of the study, how it will affect policies and the fact that their confidentiality will be protected. The entire process did not pose any significant threat to the researcher. However, some of the life experiences of some of the single parents were emotional, especially when they explained how they became single parents and how they have to care for their children on their own. However, the researcher was able to manage these issues. The researcher made an effort to ensure that the entire process of the study did not affect the participants negatively in any way.
Discussion of Findings
The research was conducted in a school setting. A school was identified where the research was conducted. As explained in the methodology section, the analysis of the primary data was conducted qualitatively. It was necessary to explain why a specific phenomenon happened the way they did. For instance, the analysis had to look at why some students preferred actively engaging in physical activities while others did not (Kay 2012).
The findings made in the study were closely compared with the information collected from the review of literature and theories relevant to this field. In this section, it is important to present the analysis of the research questions posed to the participants in this study. The most fundamental question that formed the basis of this research focused on establishing the role of sports programs as perceived by the participants.
What is the role of sports programs in children’s development?
When this question was posed to the respondents, several fundamental issues came out as children, parents, and teachers tried to outline the importance of sports programs in the development of children. One of the teachers explained how important sports programs are in ensuring that children remain sharp. The teacher explained that when children come to school in the morning, they are mentally sharp and are capable of grasping concepts taught in class.
However, as time passes by and the more they remain seated the lesser their concentration levels become. Allowing them to engage in physical games outside the classroom revives their concentration. When they come back to class, they may be physically tired, but they are mentally sharp once more.
According to one of the teachers, sports programs help create a bond among children. When children go to the field to play, they get to work as a team. They learn the value of teamwork. They get to understand that their weaknesses can be remedied by the strength of their colleagues. Similarly, they are also expected to remedy the weaknesses of their colleagues with their strength. Such mutually beneficial relationships are important in having a cohesive environment in school.
The teacher explained that through teamwork, children can understand the importance of diversity. For instance, when playing football, a child will offer to be the goalkeeper because it believes that it has skills in goalkeeping. Another would want to be a striker, a midfielder, or a defender. At that very tender age, they learn that they are gifted differently and that their different talents are what makes them become a team. They cannot make a successful team if all of them are goalkeepers, strikers, or defender. They need diversity to make them successful in the field.
One of the parents who took part in this study noted that sports programs help their children to become physically strong and less susceptible to some of the lifestyle diseases. One of the major fears of this parent concerning the health of young children is the development of obesity as a health condition. Children who play less are likely to become obese. Their inactivity and poor eating habits make them accumulate massive body fat. Children who are obese not only become vulnerable to other diseases such as diabetes but they also tend to be lazy. They find it difficult to control their heavy body and therefore prefer spending most of their time relaxing in bed or chairs.
They prefer playing video games to engaging in physical activities that can help them overcome their condition. Although Kern and Humpal (2012) believe that these video games help children become mentally sharp, it significantly affects them in various ways. As a result of their limited physical activities, obesity among children is becoming a major issue in the country. Obesity is also associated with numerous other health complications (Canale, Beaty, & Campbell 2013).
When one of the children was asked why sports were important, it explained that it enables them to compete and become winners. One of them explained that he loves playing the role of Christiano Ronaldo who is his preferred athlete. Every time he gets the opportunity to be in the field, he wants to be as prolific with the ball as Christiano. Another child stated that sports enable them to become good friends at school. She explained that every time she comes to school, she looks forward to playing with her friends and bonding very closely. The little girl explained that her friends mean a lot to her because they sometimes offer her emotional support when she feels weak or frightened. Children were also happy with the idea that they are heard and that their views are taken into consideration when it came to defining the nature of sports they should be engaged in when at school. They were also pleased with the idea of being offered a wide variety of games to choose from.
Impact of Parents Perception towards Sports on Children’s Engagement in Sports Programmes
Parents play a significant role in defining their children’s engagement in sports programs. According to Langston and Doherty (2013), there is always a tendency of parents to try and define the future of their children from a very tender age. Successful parents want their children to follow the same path they took to become as successful as they were in life (Costello 2012). As such, a successful surgeon would want his or her child to become a medical doctor. To such a parent, engaging in sports is a waste of time. A parent who was successful in major sports on the other hand would motivate their children to follow their path and be as successful as they were (Tough 2012).
Such parents would spend a lot to ensure that their children have the best facilities to enable them to engage in sports. On the other hand, some parents feel that for one reason or the other they failed to achieve what they wanted to in life and their age and realities make it impossible for them to achieve their life goals (Brailsford 2014). As such, they see their children as instruments through which they can achieve what they wanted to achieve in their lives. That makes them view sports from completely different perspectives. Ledgerton (2013) reiterates that the perception of parents towards sports has a direct impact on children’s engagement in sports.
According to Maynard and Powell (2013), some parents often value sports so much. They might have been good sportsmen or women in the past or for one reason or the other they like various sports. They spend a considerable amount of time watching football, volleyball, or other games when they are free.
Other parents have a positive perception of physical games because they know of the health benefits. They may be doctors or experts in other fields but are fully aware that physical exercise helps in promoting good health (Selmi, Gallagher, & Mora-Flores 2015). Such parents’ positive perception towards sports makes them appreciate the need for their children to engage in sports programs. They will purchase sports shoes, balls, and make payments to sports academies to ensure that their children engage in sports as much as possible (Kohl & Cook 2013).
They will also offer these children emotional support to ensure that they can have the endurance needed in the field when they play. These parents would even consider spending some time playing together with their children or being physically present in sports tournaments where their children are participants (Lucas 2013). Their positive perception becomes a drive that makes them committed to having their children actively engaged in sports (Bauman, Cross & Walker 2013).
The parents who have a negative perception towards sports may do everything to ensure that their children spend an as limited amount of time as possible in sports (Meiners & Allen 2013). They may be parents who view sports as a waste of time and cannot help their children in the future (Mathis & Galloway 2013). Others may view sports as being physically dangerous to their children based on past experiences. It does not matter what the cause of the negative perception is (Selmi, Gallagher, & Mora-Flores (2015).
Once a parent views sports unfavorably, they are unlikely to support the idea of their children getting actively engaged in it. They will not spend their resources on sporting events or facilities and neither are they likely to take time with their children in sporting activities. According to Lindon (2012), it is important to come up with ways of influencing parents’ views on children taking part in sports activities. They should be informed about the benefits of physical activities and their importance on their children’s lives (Cohen 2012).
Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory
Using Social Learning Theory as put forward by Albert Bandura may help in answering the question about the perceived role of sports programs in childhood development. According to this theory, children tend to learn new behavior by observing what people around them do (Price & Tayler 2015). That is why children who spend a considerable amount of time watching football are very likely going to play football when they have time to play. Those who watch wrestling or violent movies are more likely to engage in physical fights with their colleagues than those who spend a lot of time watching cartoons (Miller & Cameron 2013).
In this theory, it is argued that intrinsic reinforcements also play a critical role in learning. Having a sense of satisfaction, accomplishments, and pride may lead to learning (Morrison 2015). However, these can only be reinforced by parents and teachers. When a child does something positive and it receives a compliment from adults, they develop an urge to do it more often so that they can get the approvals more often (Ritchie 2015).
The problem arises when a parent has limited time to spend with the children (Winters 2013). The positive reinforcement that a child needs from the parent, the constant approvals, and motivation to aim higher, will be lacking. Such a child may lose the urge to work harder towards a given course because they lack the drive. It means that even in sports, the perception of children is heavily influenced by what their parents think and tell them (Nutbrown, Clough, & Atherton 2013). When the parents constantly give negative reinforcements towards sports, a child may eventually have a negative perception of games (Hall 2015).
According to Rodgers and Wilmot (2012), parents and teachers must understand that their perception of the role of sports in childhood development matters a lot. Sometimes these adults may not directly say that they do not prefer their children engaging actively in sports. Their inability or lack of interest when it comes to discussing issues about sports and motivating their children to actively engage in them is interrelated by children as having a negative attitude (Food and Nutrition Board 2013).
They read the lack of concern as a direct message to them that sports are not important (Sharma & Cockerill 2014). On the other hand, when parents are actively involved in motivating their children to engage in sports to the extent of playing together with them occasionally, then the children get the drive to be active in physical games (Sayre et al. 2015).
Sports play a critical role in the physical, mental, and psychological development of a child. As shown in the above discussion, children who actively engage in sports programs are less susceptible to diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and related health complications. Physically active children are also more likely to be active in the classroom than those who do not. Physical activities improve the performance of the heart and ensure that there is a proper flow of blood to the brain and the rest of the body.
However, the perceived role of sports programs in childhood development is very important. Although the benefits of sports programs are obvious, the perception of parents and teachers matters a lot in determining how often children engage in sports.
When parents and teachers perceive sports programs as time wastage, they are less likely to promote an enabling environment for their children to play. They will not provide the positive reinforcement children need to be active in sports. On the other hand, if they perceive sports programs to be important, they will support their children both materially and emotionally, to engage actively in various sporting activities.
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