Sports addictions can ruin relationships

Sports are an enjoyable past-time, but they should be just that. Youth sports and marriages can be ruined by an adult’s addiction to the game.

As players take the field for fall sports like football, experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) remind adults that an obsessive focus on any sport can deter kids from playing and damage relationships.

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Sandra Sims, Ph.D., associate professor of human studies in the UAB School of Education, said while parents do not purposefully take the joy out of their children’s games, being overzealous about their abilities, effort or participation can do just that.

“Young athletes have two needs that should be fulfilled, and those are to feel worthy and have fun,” explained Sims, who was a middle- and high-school teacher and coach for 20 years.

“When a sport is no longer fun – if the child feels the sport is more like a job – they will quit,” she said. “It’s sad to see them walk away.”

Josh Klapow, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Public Health, added that parents’ good intentions can get in the way of kids’ sports.

“Conflict arises when we are unable to distinguish between what we want for our children and what we wanted for ourselves in the past,” Klapow said. “When the lines get blurred, that is where problems start.”

Klapow noted that sports can start problems in an adult’s life, kids or no kids, and said red flags include if sports cause them to miss important family gatherings or become violent.

“Listen to those around you,” he advised. “If family and friends say you are taking it too far, be brave enough to back off a bit.”

Klapow offered the following tips to manage a sports addiction:

  • Set limits, such as one sporting event per week.
  • Substitute new behaviors for sports viewing, such as exercise or spending time with family or friends.
  • Seek help from a mental-health professional to help address concerns regarding your habit.
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