How to Choose the Right Sport for Your Child

If you’re a parent whose begun looking at a youth sports activity for your child, you’re probably wondering how to decide which activity to choose. Many communities have a variety of opportunities for kids from solo sports like track to team sports like soccer. How can you narrow down the choices and settle on the activity that best fits your child? Consider these tips.

First, the Why

Playing sports is a great opportunity for learning and growing. Children who play learn how to work with others, they get to know people from diverse backgrounds, they learn life lessons about winning and losing. They learn how to get back up after adversity and move on.

 

“Playing a sport also increases self-confidence, improves body image and, of course, improves physical health.” — Alex Perdikis


A recent study published in The Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies found higher leadership skills, self-confidence levels and self-respect in those who played sports when they were young. The results were the same even for those who played high school sports as long as 50 years ago. And, it didn’t matter if they were poor or great athletes, the benefits were the same.

Is Your Child Ready?

Typically, children are ready to mentally and physically begin some type of sport by age 6-7. That doesn’t mean all children are ready to jump right into an organized sports program at that age.

Atlanta area pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu recommends playing in the backyard with your child in relatively easy activities such playing catch, kicking a ball or swinging a bat. As your child’s hand-eye coordination and physical activities improve, watch which type of activity your child’s abilities seems the best fit.

When you feel your child is ready, talk with your child about joining a team. She may have a decided preference for a particular sport. He may have friends already on a team and wants to join them. Think about your child’s fitness level for the specific sport preferred. Try to come to a mutual decision.

Begin at a recreational level to get your child used to the team sport atmosphere.

Try Me!

Many youth sports programs offer tryout opportunities. Kids can come in without committing or buying a uniform and play a session or two. Both kids and their parents get an idea about whether or not a particular sport is a good fit.

Decide and Commit

Playing sports is about fun. But, it’s also about learning and growing. After you and your child have chosen the sport, sit down with each other to talk about the responsibilities that come with playing. Point out there are fees to pay and uniforms to buy.

Explain how long the season is and how much each team member relies on the other. Quitting in midseason would mean letting a lot of people down. Joining a team is a wonderful learning opportunity for a child to learn about commitment and duty to others.

You Can Bend, But You Can’t Break

You know your child better than anyone. Perhaps your child isn’t suited, either because of age, development or personality, to join an organized sports team. That’s OK. Many local organizations, such as the YMCA, provide sporting activities for children and adults alike. Typical offerings include tennis and golf lessons, gymnastics and swimming.

And, don’t be surprised if your child wants to switch to a different sport, particularly in the beginning. It may just mean your child hasn’t found the right fit yet. Let them switch a couple of times if the child’s reasoning seems sensible. But draw the line at excessive switching and flimsy reasoning. Otherwise, you’ll end up with sports equipment and your child will learn to walk away when things become a bit uncomfortable.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

Fun and Youth Sports: How to Create a Winning Combination

The steady decline of participation in youth sports isn’t a secret. And there’s no single reason kids no longer flock to play like they once did. But for many children, the reason is simple. Playing in a youth sports program is not fun. It may have been fun at first, but somewhere along the line the simple joy of physical activity and sharing with teammates became lost. What can parents and coaches do to bring the fun back to youth sports?

What Happens?

The reasons kids lose interest in sports varies, but an i9 Sports survey provides some surprising answers. The survey of 300 youth sports participants ranging in age from 8-14 found that 84 percent either wanted to quit at the time of the survey or have wanted to quit in the past. Even more shocking was the fact that the topmost reason most kids began playing in the first place was to have fun. But 47 percent said that’s exactly what they weren’t having.

Why no fun? Many of the respondents reported they had at some point watched their parents and coaches in a verbal dispute during a game. And nearly a third wished the adults in their lives weren’t at the game at all. In other words parents — you’re often the cause. Here’s how to fix it.

Your Fun or Mine?

Children are a resilient bunch. Without outside influences, most of them shrug off a blowout defeat and move quickly on. Many parents, on the other hand, look at losing differently. They worry losing takes the fun out of it for their child. They may worry about their child’s loss of confidence. And they may be vocal about their concerns in front of their children.

“Your idea of fun and your child’s could very well be worlds apart. As a parent, it’s your job to support and enjoy watching your child play, win or lose.”

— Alex Perdikis

If you place emphasis on winning and losing, so will your child. And there goes the fun. And there goes one of the priceless life lessons playing sports brings — learning to deal with loss and the strength to get back up and try again.

Who’s the Coach?

Picture this — you’re the kid playing soccer. Your coach pulls you aside and tells you one thing. You run back on the field and hear Dad yell. And guess what? He’s telling you to do exactly the opposite of what the coach just told you. You’re 8 years old. Who do you listen to?

Parents who coach from the sidelines place unnecessary pressure on their kids. Added pressure and conflicting loyalties is a sure-fire way to destroy enjoyment.

Likewise, don’t analyze aspects of the game or your child’s play on the ride home or any other time for that matter. Avoid bad mouthing the coach. A great question to ask on the ride home is “Did you have fun today?” Leave it at that.

Be the Great Parent

The best teacher your child will ever have is you. Even if you say all the right things, your child will follow what you do, not what you say. Be a great role model. Treat the coaches and players with respect. Never undermine the coach’s authority or depth of knowledge. If you have an issue with the coach, set up a private meeting to discuss it without your child’s presence.

Together, you and your child can make youth sports the fun and healthy activity it’s meant to be.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.