If you are a competitive parent with a young child, you may start thinking about when you should sign your kid up for sports and what sport they should participate in. There are many factors that come in to play, including not only the physical and emotional maturity of your child, but your own beliefs as well. In a world where youth sports are becoming more and more competitive, parents may be inclined to start their kids at a younger age to gain an edge. While in theory this may sound enticing, it actually may be detrimental to your child’s experience in sports. Below are a few points to consider to keep sports fun.
As far as age, assessing physical and emotional maturity is a good starting point in determining if the child is ready for organized sports. While one child may have one of the two attributes, such as the physicality, it does not mean that they can put it together emotionally on the field or court. In this case, the need for social skills is necessary to remove frustration in both the child and the parent. Typically, signing your kid up for youth sports is around the age of 6 or 7, but if you see early development in both the physical and emotional aspect, it may be beneficial to introduce sports earlier. If you are a competitive parent, remember that there are opportunities down the road more serious skill development. Sports at this age should be recognized as fun in the child’s eyes.
To create well-rounded individuals, allowing time to learn your child’s personality and preferences are crucial to personal development. Parents may be leaning towards a particular sport, one they may have grown up with and succeeded playing in, but that sport’s attributes do not necessarily translate to the child’s personality. Team sports reinforce the ideas of teamwork and effective group communication, but a more introverted child may prefer the environment of an individual sport, like tennis or golf. Allow your child to gain an experience with all kinds of sports, giving opportunities to see what they like. Children exposed to only one type of sport year-round may experience burnout and lack the willingness to continue. Playing multiple sports keeps things fresh and keeps frustration levels low.
That being said, how much time should you spend in your child’s sport? If you undergo long seasons, parents who dedicate a good chunk of family time in sports are once again under the risk of the child burning out in a couple years. Also, if much of the time is spent on one sport, that reduces time spent towards other areas such as reading or movie nights, for example. Many youth athletes are starting to specialize in one sport at an earlier age, making it a year-round activity. If it is a team that participates year-round, athletes are most likely coming from a broader area, and travel-time is part of the package. While some parents may find that year-round sports necessary for their child to succeed as a teenager, they have to remember that the child still has be interested in the sport when they reach those years. The time you have with your children is valuable and trying a little bit of everything before focusing on one area will leave them feeling more fulfilled and excited about their future endeavors.
As a child who grew up playing three sports (one was baseball, pictured above as a senior in high school) and performed with my trumpet, I owe it to my parents to allow me the chance to discover my true passions. By giving me variety, I can proudly say that it made me a stronger person today. With each activity you gain certain skills that are applicable to a number of other areas. I believe my success sprouted from this concept of guided exploration, where parents are the moderators but provide the child with a sense of freedom. I love the fact that I can still enjoy these activities to this day and would like to see others share a similar experience as they grow older.