There are a lot of options when it comes to sports for kids.
Navigating those options is the job of every parent or guardian. It’s a job that can be just as frustrating as it is fulfilling. Confusion and clarity can come in equal measures.
The U.S. All Star Federation (USASF) is a leader when it comes to managing and supporting sports activities for kids. We work with parents, kids and families across the country, and with teams across the world.
As you look at all the activities out there, balancing a child’s interest and enthusiasm with safety, fun, learning and education, and growth can be difficult.
Let’s look at a few ways you can take the mystery out of sports for kids.
Evaluating and Selecting Sports Activities for Kids
As you research and experience the options out there, consider these factors:
- Safety first: It’s a good idea to start a new sports activity in a league or working with a coach. A coach or league can teach the intricacies of the sport, including safety. Even an activity as simple as running will involve specialized knowledge. For example, a coach can help you find the right shoes to wear. They can teach you how to stay hydrated, and what to do if you feel pain in your legs. Their experience and know-how will be invaluable in helping you and the child get the most from the sport. An online video isn’t enough to keep you safe when starting a sport.
- Team sports versus solo sports: Every child is different. Some are happier playing with others and being part of a team. A sport is as much a social activity as a physical activity. Others want a little more independence. They want to push themselves. Some children want a mix of independence, to know it is just them on the field, and a team. No matter the age, it’s a good idea to have an honest conversation with a child before joining a league or reaching out to a coach. Meeting friends, socializing and working as a team is an important part of the sport experience, but setting expectations early can eliminate frustration later.
- Satisfaction: Forcing a child into a sport they don’t want to play can lead to frustration and hurt feelings. This is especially true if it’s a sport the parent has fond memories of. Success in sports requires passion, dedication and excitement. Letting a child pick their own sport and explore their own interests can be empowering. Let the child try out several sports first. Attend a few classes, even watch a few games or matches. Talk about what they liked and didn’t like before letting them pick. Don’t be surprised, or hurt, if they pick a sport that you didn’t expect. That’s part of growing up.
- Fun: Sport can be a time-consuming activity, so it’s important to pick something that you and the family can have fun with. Find a coach, team or league that understands it is just as important to have fun as it is to succeed. Watch a team practice, or sit in a training session, to evaluate the fun factor. Evaluate not only the activity, but also the social side of the sport. Avoid frustration by finding another team or class if the fun isn’t there.
- Next steps: It may seem silly to think that far ahead when you are taking your first class, but an important factor in selecting any sport is looking ahead. Does the sport have the foundation and growth opportunities to be a long-term activity? Does it offer opportunities to grow, to learn, to get better and reach goals that match or align with the goals you have? Does the activity have the legs to keep the child’s interest over time? Some activities may only hold their interest for a short time, and that’s okay. It’s also important to find activities that will last in order to build the healthy habits in kids that will last a lifetime.
Getting Started in Sports
Today, there are a lot of distractions out there for kids.
Video games, social media, TV, YouTube — the options to waste time and fill your days with quickly forgotten activities are endless. Sometimes, the choice to make a healthier option for your time requires a kick-start. You need to make the choice to live healthier, and sports can help. Playing a sport is a decision that is good for you. It may not be the easy choice, but it’s one that few of us ever regret.
The tips above can help you map out a process for finding a sport that will make you and the child happier (and healthier).
If you need help, or want to find sports and coaches in your area, then contact USASF today. You can also use our All Star Club Finder to find a coach or program near you ready to help. Let’s get started!