Selecting the Best Individual Sport, Team Sport or Sports League for Your Child
If you’re like most parents, you feel that youth sports are an important part of growing up. Youth sports can help encourage activity in a fun way, simultaneously teach cooperation and competition, and help improve not only gross motor skills, but heighten bodily-kinesthetic awareness, to boot. But what will be the best sport for your kid?
First things first—be sure to ask your child which sports appeal to them most. If they already have a passion for a particular type of sport, it’ll be much easier to get them to practices and games. And if, s/he is already familiar with the sport, s/he will have at least a basic understanding of the rules and be able to hit the ground running from the get go. Dig in deeper to your child’s responses… Why is s/he interested in each sport? Is s/he friends with someone already on a team? What does s/he already know about the sports?
Next, narrow your focus based on your child’s innate “body smarts”. Does your youngster have a natural sense of how their body should act and react in a demanding physical situation? With all youth sports, there will be both challenging and easy aspects, but some kids sports are more difficult to pick up than others. If this will be your child’s first experience in a sport, it’s best to start them in a sport where they can experience relatively easy success and accomplishment in their peer group so that they’re excited to attempt more challenging levels of gameplay.
Be sure to think of what you want the sport to accomplish within their personality type.
If you’ve got a shy kid, do you want them to get the exercise and kinesthetic development, but give them a safe place to learn in an individual sport? Or do you want to encourage more social development within a team sport? If you’ve got a social butterfly, do you want them to get the social interaction they crave in a team sport? Or would you prefer to foster their focus and concentration within an individual sport? Our proprietary Spirit Assessment can help you narrow in on whether an individual or team sport would be best for your child’s unique spirit.
Finally, consider the options in your area. Different options will be available based on your child’s age, the distance you’re willing to drive to practices and games, and, of course, your budget. Are your kid’s friends signed up to play on a particular youth sports team? Friends on the team can often make your children more enthusiastic about practices—not to mention make your life easier with potential for carpools. Keep in mind that it’s your responsibility as a parent to make it to your child’s games or competitions and show support, so be sure to keep the time obligation in mind before you sign on the dotted line. Finally, there can be dramatic differences in coaching philosophies, facilities and team objectives, so it’s important to keep a pulse on whether or not the program continues to be a positive experience for your child not only physically, but socially and emotionally, as well. Brochures and web sites can often talk a good game, so be sure to find out first hand from other parents and kids about coaching styles.
We highly recommend checking out Education.com‘s assessment checklist to help you further assess each program’s quality.
Even after you’ve enrolled them in what you feel is a perfectly matched team sport on individual sport for your child, keep in mind that things just may not work out. Their natural abilities may lie in other realms and they may end up in more of a benchwarmer role for the season. Encourage them to stick with it and keep trying for the season before giving it up. Remind them to have fun. This is an incredible opportunity for you as a parent to help them understand that not being the most valuable player in a sport does not make them any less of a person—each person is unique and that their personal legend may lie elsewhere. Then brainstorm together about what other kinds of youth sports activities may be better suited to them that they’d like to try next season.