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.
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.