Sports can be a fun way for your child to get physical activity and develop skills. Around age 6 or 7, kids start to have the kinds of physical and mental traits they need to play organized sports. Being part of a sports program can give your child many benefits for learning and growing. It can help with:
Getting regular physical activity
Developing motor skills
Developing social skills
Learning about teamwork and sportsmanship
Working with a variety of people
Learning the discipline of practice
Learning how to listen to directions and follow rules
Before you look into a sports program, make sure your child is ready. A child’s readiness can depend on:
Physical maturity. Different sports vary in their demand for certain kinds of physical traits. Does your child have the strength, height, flexibility, endurance, or other traits needed to start a particular sport? Talk with the coach to find out what traits are needed.
Emotional maturity. Playing a sport requires a certain amount of mental maturity. Training, teamwork, pressure, physical and mental stress, control, and being in competition with others with a good attitude – these all demand emotional readiness.
A doctor’s OK. A chronic health condition or a disability can make sports a challenge, or even a risk. Make sure to get the doctor’s OK before your child starts a sports program.
Finding a sport that will fit your child depends on many factors. They include:
Age. Kids ages 6 to 9 have basic motor skills, but have fewer complex motor skills. They may be new to ideas such as teamwork, and not as good at following directions. Older kids have more developed motor skills. And they can handle things such as strategy, competition, and pressure. Certain sports can be easily adapted for younger and older players.
Personal interest. Is your child drawn to a particular sport? Does he or she like to watch local games or follow the sport on TV? Curiosity and enthusiasm are good motivators.
Temperament. Consider how social your child is. Some kids are drawn to team sports such as football, soccer, or baseball. Others prefer to focus on individual goals. These kids might prefer swimming, tennis, or running.
Physical traits. Is your child tall? Is she more flexible? Does he have strength? Different body types can be more suited to different sports. But keep in mind that this doesn’t mean he or she won’t enjoy a sport that doesn’t seem to fit their physique.
Your child’s schedule. Certain sports have intense schedules for practices and games or meets. Will your child be able to go to all of these? Will they have problems juggling homework and time with friends and family?
Your family’s schedule. Think about how practices and games will affect day-to-day life. How will they affect your family’s plans? Many sports have games on the weekends. Will this be a problem for your family’s schedule? Can you adjust family time as needed?
Cost. The cost of equipment, uniforms, fees, and other expenses can be high for some sports. Can your family afford them?
Who’s in charge. Do you and your child like the coach? Does his or her experience and attitude match your values?
Your readiness to put in time and assistance. This may include helping your child keep schedules, providing transportation, volunteering, and bringing team snacks.
Ask your child some questions to find out how he or she feels about the sport, such as:
Did you have fun playing today?
What did you learn in practice?
What was your favorite part of the game? Your least favorite part?
What do you like most about your coach or teammates?
What do you like least about your coach or teammates?
What’s the best thing about being on the team? Your least favorite thing?
Don’t be surprised if your child wants to switch sports a few times. It can take a few tries for a child to find out what kinds of things they enjoy and are good at. But even if a sport isn’t a good fit, it can still give a good learning experience.