Few sports, save for the more recently developed MMA and UFC leagues, offer the same level of thrill and tension for spectators as boxing. From the moment the first bell rings to signal the start of the match to the last round, boxing is all about technical skill, power, and stamina. Everything from the way a boxer moves his or her feet tothe way they defend and throw punches requires carefulpractice and endless hours of conditioning at the gym. It's a tough sport, no doubt, but one that appeals to individuals who love a personal challenge and want to put their skills to the test in a big way.

Everyone must start somewhere, though, and this raises a question that more and more parents ask every year: is boxing appropriate for my child? It's entirelydifferent from basketball, football, and even the heavycontact of a sport such as rugby, and youth boxing leagues aren't as widespread as they once were. There's a reason for that: the evidence on whether children should play this sport is decidedly mixed. Whether you have a child who has asked about the opportunity to spar in the ring or if you're just considering what sportsmight be appropriate for them, you'll need to have all the facts. We'll begin with the most importantquestion of all.

Is boxing really a sport to consider for your kids?

At first glance, more cautious parents would answer the above question with a resounding "no." Those who may have boxed themselves or who aren't aware of the potential risks may give it more consideration. The reality is that no black and white answer comesdown on one side of the debate or the other. As with everything, the truth lies in shades of grey — so it's important to be clear about what's most important to know.

Many paediatriciansand health organisations, including groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, advise against youth boxing in no uncertain terms. Their concern stems from the risk of concussions, which do pose a particular danger to young sports players; their brains can struggle to recover from more severe concussions, with effects lingering for some time. While concussionsrepresent a small portion of the injuries experienced by boxers every year, the science in this area is continuallyevolving. We're beginning to understand that many types of blows to the head, even ones which may not rate on the concussion scale, can add up to cause future problems. Therefore, there’s a reasonto be cautious about youth boxing.

With that said, there are many potential benefits kids can experience from boxing. Additionally, youth boxing leagues rarely reach the levels of intensity found at the professional heavyweight level. The wealth of protective gear worn by kids in the sport can help to cushion the impacts and reduce the likelihood of a seriousconcussion. While very young children shouldn't play, it is worth speaking to an older child to weigh the pros and cons with their input.

The potential benefits of involvement in boxing

Boxing can carry both physical and mental benefits for the kids who participate in the sport. On the physical side, boxing training doesn't focus only on high-intensityphysical activity, though it is a core component. It also focuses on eating the right kind of diet. Maintaining the proper"fighting weight" while providing the body with enough energy to power through day after day of training takes good, healthyfood in the right quantities. Not only can youth boxing serve to create healthy habits regardingconsistent exercise, but it can inspire your kids to move away from unhealthy junk food and towards a diet that empowers them to do more.

On the psychological side, boxers must become familiar with beating back adversity. There will be tough days, and there will be days when you don't want to get in the ring to practice at all. There will even be defeats and losses to sparring partners, too. Persevering through these low points and learning how to dig deep and rely on yourself to accomplish your goals is something every boxer goes through; your child could benefit from it, too. Taken together, these benefits can present a compelling case for some level of youth participating in the sport.

Using boxing training as a gateway to fitness

What if you want to unlock some of those benefits for your child without exposing them to the full measure of risk inherent to boxing? No rule saysyou mustget in the ring — in fact, a boxing training routine instituted on its own can confer many of the same benefits. Activities such as running, jump-roping, and even practisingon a punching bag can all develop your child's fitness and resolve. However, if you choose to omit the actual fighting component to boxing, it’s essentialthat you work together to come with a structure and other goals that enable your child to work towards something. Otherwise, it will be challengingto develop and maintain the routine.

What are some potential goals? A half-marathon or a weight-lifting competition are just a couple ideas. Of course, be prepared for the possibility that during this training, your child might want to lace up their gloves for real! While fewer schools offer boxing programs, there may still be intramural opportunities for your child to participate and hone their skills. Let's focus on that scenario in some more detail.

Tips and tricks for what to do if your child does want to box

Structure and safety are the two most important things to consider if you want to allow your child to pursue boxing seriously. Look for a sanctioned youth boxing gym or other options that provide access to professional experience and training. Reading quick how-tos on the web is an excellentway to make a start, but it isn't what your child should base their development on entirely. A boxing gym offers access to equipment, a training program, and most importantly, partners to sparagainst. Search your local area to determine if there are any opportunities available to your child. As previously mentioned, school sports may be an option as well.

Be prepared to support your child through difficult periods in their training. It can help to adopt a healthier, more active lifestyle yourself. If your child sees you working in tandem with their efforts, it can serve as an essentialmotivator for those times when quitting looks like the better option. Look for other parents involved in boxing nearby to reach out and learn from their experiences, too.

Other sports can offer a safer alternative

What if you decide that the risks outweigh the potential rewards, but you still want to offer your child the opportunity to access some of the same benefits? Other sports can provide a similar experience without the same high risk of concussions. For example, traditional wrestling is still alive and well, and many schools still maintain wrestling teams that compete on a regular basis. While not on the same level as boxing, wrestling delivers a similar physical challenge, requires just as much technical finesse, and can help your child to develop their character. Rugby can be a good choice as well if your child doesn't want to be confined to the boxing ring but still wants to be involved in a contact sport. Explore the options together and make a list of what you like and dislike about each; this can help when you want to settle on a solidalternative to boxing.

Weigh the pros and cons and think carefully about the right choice

No one wants to see a sport as storied as boxing fall by the wayside — and some young people, especially teens, still see a strong appeal in boxing. Ultimately, it is a personal decisionand one which must involve a carefulweighing of both the potential risks and the rewards. There's no denying that the boxing workout can be both incredibly motivating and very effective at developing physical fitness. For that reason, it can be worth considering alternatives, or to encourage your child to follow the routine without the ring. For further information, considerspeaking to your child's doctor about their suitability for boxing.

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