Here’s How to Help Your Child Choose the Right Sport

By Alex Perdikis

Trying to find the right team sport for your child?

The choice is overwhelming. Soccer? Baseball? Softball? Volleyball? Football? Hockey? Basketball? Lacrosse? And on and on.

Does your kid want to focus on one sport (or less) per season, or can she simply not get enough of team play?

How much time, energy, and money are you willing to put into your kid’s hobby? Can you ferry him to the ends of the earth — or, at least, your home state? Or does your job, family obligations, or personal sanity demand that you stay closer to home?

Your child’s choice of sport will be informed by these questions and many others. Let’s take a look at the major considerations involved in choosing the right sport for your kid, your family, and your own generous self.

Safety First

Safety is understandably top of mind for parents these days. We know so much more about the long-term dangers of contact sports like football and hockey than we did even a decade ago, and new information continues to dribble out of long-term physical and cognitive health studies. If your kid is set on playing a contact sport, make sure the league or program does everything possible to protect his or her safety. Be wary of opaque or uncommunicative programs that appear not to have players’ best interests at heart.

Gauge Interest

You might want your child to relive your own glory days as a star volleyball or basketball player, but does your child? Every parent knows that pushing a disinterested child into a particular pursuit is a fool’s errand, so make sure there’s a will before you show the way.

Consider Innate Skills

Where does your child’s athletic ability shine? Is he or she a lightning-fast runner? A rock-solid defender? A formidable thrower with impeccable aim? Different abilities produce different results on the field, diamond, or court. Before you suggest one sport over another, make sure your child’s abilities are complementary — or, failing that, that your child is willing to learn.

Consult Peers

At crunch time, your fellow parents are an invaluable resource. If you’re considering a particular league or program, ask parents who’ve put their kids through it to share their experiences — and, if you don’t like what you hear, think twice about your choice.

Plot Trajectory

Where does your kid want to end up? It seems premature to think about high school, let alone college, when evaluating athletic opportunities for your elementary schooler. But if your child has big plans to captain the high school soccer team or earn an athletic ride to a four-year university, you need to evaluate the competition they’re likely to face and determine what they need to do now to make their dreams a reality.

Know That There’s No Wrong Answer

The five preceding points will help you choose the right sport for your child. But they don’t have to lock you into a decision that you’ll come to regret.

Your child’s choice of sport isn’t irreversible. If he or she decides down the line that the whole soccer or softball thing isn’t working out, no binding contract or overweening sense of obligation need tie him or her down. It’s a great big world of youth sports out there, with a pursuit and position to fit just about every child.

And always remember that your kid is the boss. Even if you have hundreds of other things going on, as you surely do, check in periodically to make sure that his or her chosen sport continues to work out. Your kid’s physical and emotional health depends on your receptiveness to new information.