While football and other sports set many people's weekend agendas each fall, big games can also bring big worries. What happens when being a loyal fan crosses the line into an obsession? How can parents help balance their children’s athletic and academic schedules? How can football fanatics balance their enthusiasm and their budgets? As students and pros take to the field, UAB has news you can use to make it through the season.
Adding a practice schedule to the already long list of things parents have to accomplish after school may seem overwhelming, but experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham say team sports can benefit a child’s body and mind.
“Team sports are a great way young people can get their recommended daily exercise,” says Stephenie Wallace, M.D., UAB assistant professor of pediatrics.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that all kids ages 6-17 should engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Wallace says many kids can do this in physical education class in school, but not all do.
“As they get older and PE is no longer a requirement, they’re not getting exercise every day. But with team sports, they often practice two to three days per week, in addition to their games,” Wallace explains.
Plus, Wallace says the fall is an optimal time for playing team sports because of the weather.
“The fall is one of the better times to begin or continue an exercise regimen such as a sport. When it’s too hot, you have to pay attention to hydration and the air quality may not always be best,” continues Wallace, “Now we have cool mornings and evenings, they can work up a sweat and get their heart rate up; our families should really take advantage.”
Teams won’t just keep kids heart healthy — they can also help with their state of mind.
Who isn’t transfixed by the sight of a preschooler dressed in full football gear — head bobbing beneath an oversized helmet, eyes intense as he dutifully runs, in miniature cleats, into the wrong end zone?
Little Johnny is one of more than 30 million youngsters who participate in non-school sports such as football, baseball and soccer, many starting as young as 3, according to the National Alliance for Youth Sports. And he could become one of those who lose interest in sports by middle school, says a University of Alabama at Birmingham physical education expert and youth coach.
Sports is a great way for young children to learn about teamwork and discipline, experts say, and can provide 60 minutes of physical activity each day that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for children and adolescents. But as in all things, moderation and good judgment need to be your guide.
Well-meaning, but overzealous parents can ruin team sports for kids, says Sandra Sims, Ph.D., associate professor of human studies in the UAB School of Education.
“I don’t think any adult would do this purposefully, but some have taken the joy away, and that is killing sports,” says Sims who has worked as a middle- and high-school teacher and coach for 20 years.
Athletes have two needs, Sims says — to have fun and feel worthy. She suggests ways you can fulfill those needs for your child athlete:
With fall sports in full swing, there are two words that could distract a devoted fan away from the game and toward home decor: man cave. Or, if you prefer, “fan cave.”
The ideal man cave, or fan cave, is the perfect meld of well-worn recliner and high-tech TV, with an over-the-top motif sporting the cave dweller’s favorite team. But does pimping out a room of your house jeopardize the home’s resale value, even if your team’s a winner?
Cheer up, sports fans. The answer is no.
“As long as you don’t make it too specific, there tends to be a resale market for man caves,” says Stephanie Rauterkus, Ph.D., professor of accounting and finance in the UAB School of Business.
“No matter how crazy you get, there tends to be at least one or two other people in the world who have that same kind of craziness,” Rauterkus added.
She should know. Not only is she an economist, but she, her co-economist husband, Andreas Rauterkus, and their two kids hole up in their man cave each weekend.
“For ours I didn’t want to put a Bearcat claw on one wall, because even though it’s just paint, somebody who is not a Cincinnati fan may go ‘Uggggghhh, I gotta paint and do this and that’” says Rauterkus. “Plus, down here even if you go Alabama or Auburn you have a 50/50 chance of having a team that turns somebody off of buying your house.”
Being passionate about your interests is good, Stephanie Rauterkus says, “but there is a way to do it that doesn’t get you into too much financial trouble.”
First and foremost, Rauterkus says, “Don’t go crazy with it.”
For millions of Americans, fall ushers in the ultimate season — football — when the smell of pigskin perfumes the air and sometimes blurs the line between a fan and a fanatic.
“Football is an all-American sport and people love it, especially in the South. But for some people, watching football can become an obsession,” says Josh Klapow, Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham clinical psychologist in the School of Public Health.
Dedication to a sport or team is normal, Klapow says, but a football addiction can endanger relationships and wreak havoc on the life of a super-fan.
“It’s not how much time you spend watching football that matters,” Klapow says, “it’s whether or not that is causing negative behaviors in your life. Whether it’s 10 hours per week or 40, the issue is its affect on your real-life obligations.”
So how do you define an abnormal love affair with football? Klapow says if a person is thinking about football while doing other things, irritated when a game is interrupted, missing family or other important events to watch a game or depressed, angry or violent when a team loses, that signals a loosening grip on reality and too much adoration for a game.
If you recognize this behavior in someone you love, Klapow says don’t sugarcoat it. If their addiction to sports is running your relationship, let them know.
The good news, Klapow says, is this can be helped. But as in all addictions, the addict first must recognize there is a problem.
“Ultimately this is a habit that needs to change, and moving forward means changing your behavior a little bit at a time,” Klapow says.
Klapow suggests the following tips to manage a sports addiction: