Hockey, basketball, soccer and baseball are all sports that many youth have participated in throughout the duration of their childhood. Whether it be competitive or house league, youth take part in a variety of sports. When we look back on the sports that we participated in as children, we tend to remember the experiences we shared with teammates and the positive environment that we were immersed in. The goal of sport and recreation is to foster a positive environment and learning experience for youth. What happens when the sport that a child is participating in does the exact opposite? Encourages and focuses on violence? Will this have a negative impact on the youth participating? Or will it help to build the infamous “character” that we always speak of in sport?
Many sports have aggressive components such as; hard tackles in football and hits into the boards in hockey. Although people have suggested that these components of the game have result in youth developing aggressive and violent behaviors, neither of these sports involve the violence that the rapidly spreading sport of pankration has. Pankration, commonly known in adult form as mixed marital arts (MMA) is a sport that is quickly spreading across the USA. This sport currently involves an estimated three million boys and girls some as young as five years old. When you think of MMA, you can picture two grown men thrashing around inside of a cage in an attempt to either knock out their opponent or inflict enough pain for them give up. Likewise, the rules of pankration are no different. Youth are inside of a ring wearing no head protection, throwing punches with gloves on as small as one inch thick, and yes, like I said, as young as five years old. The main objective of this sport is the same as adult MMA. It is to have your opponent give up or to knock them out. When searching this sport, the images that are displayed show youth in cages punching, kicking and choking each other. Is this really what we want to encourage our youth to be apart of? Can we really justify that this will help build positive youth development behaviours?
There are many supporting fans who are comparing the benefits of this sport to sports such as boxing and other forms of traditional martial arts, claiming that it encourages self discipline, fair play and exercise. Following a loss, children are seen crying and showing their disappointment, which shines light on how old the participants actually are. This sport is receiving critiques due to its violent manner. Youth are exposed to multiple head injuries which run the risk of severe head trauma throughout their development. It can lead to many neck, head, bone and ligament injuries.
In my opinion this sport should not be allowed for youth of this age. With little equipment and the severe impact that is occurring to children inside of the ring, it can only be imagined that this will lead to an increase in violent behaviors outside of the ring. The sole purpose of this sport is to inflict harm and hurt your opponent. At such a critical age for youth development, implementing such behaviors can only lead to a violent behavior with youth in their day to day lives. Is this the kind of sport we want our youth participating in? Encouraging violence and pain? In my opinion this will only lead to an increase in violence and behavioral issues in youth.
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