The benefits of playing organized sports are well-established. They include giving children the opportunity to interact with peers and coaches to reach a common goal. This can help foster leadership skills as the child learns to get along with others and follow instructions, while working to improve their personal best.
Team sports can also help a child learn new skills. A young person can learn about the thrill of challenging oneself, and the importance of practicing a skill until it is mastered.
Last but not least, team sports offer a fun and safe way for children to get regular exercise.
Participation in youth sports has been linked to better grades, higher self-esteem, and lower obesity rates.
According to some studies, however, a sizable majority — 70 percent — of children who participate in organized sports quit by the time they are 15 years old.
The following are things you should consider when signing your child up to play sports, to improve the chances that the experience will be fun and enriching for all, and your child will stick with it longer.
First, you need consider your child’s emotional and physical readiness to play a given sport. There are youth leagues that recruit children to play as young as 4 or even 3 years old. But many parents may opt to wait until their child has reached an older age, to sign them up for a sport.
Child experts advise that when younger children are involved, competition should not be emphasized as much as just providing a fun and safe opportunity for the child to be physically active.
Next, you should give thought to your child’s personality, to help you decide whether he or she would be better suited to play a team sport or an individual sport.
You should insure that the appropriate safety gear has been attained and will be always worn, to help prevent injury. And as the parent, you should check to see that your child will be matched up with kids of the same size.
Make signing your child up for a sport a joint family decision, considering how practices and games will affect the child’s and the family’s everyday life. To help you gauge the amount of time that the sport will demand from you and your child, you may want to get a schedule of practices and games and map out on a calendar what a week would look like.
Another point that must be considered is what the financial cost will be to the family. Discussing costs upfront with your spouse may avert arguments later.
As a parent, you should also consider whether you want to be involved in the sport as a coach or in another role; this can be a good way to spend time with your child and show you are interested in his pursuits.
Tempting as it might be, try not to push your child into a sport just because you played that sport, if your child shows no interest in it.
And it’s okay if your son or daughter doesn’t take to the initial sport you sign them up for. It may take a few tries or a few years to find a sport that’s a good match.
If your child shows frustration or unhappiness with a sport, you can try to determine if the problem is fixable, or if the child simply doesn’t like the sport. There’s no point in pushing a child to participate in a sport, if he or she is not enjoying the experience.
And if it turns out that your child is not into playing organized sports, that’s okay, too. He can still keep fit with other activities that don’t involve competition. Medical experts recommend that a child be physically active for at least 60 minutes a day.
Parents should view participation in sports as a way for their children to be active, enjoy themselves, learn the importance of discipline, learn about camaraderie, and so forth. Parents generally should not sign up their children with the hope that the child will earn an academic scholarship to college or even a professional sports career.
The reality of college and professional sports is this: statistics from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) show that only some 3 to 6 percent of high school basketball, football, baseball, and soccer players make it onto a college team. And only roughly 1 to 9 percent of college athletes make it to the pros.
Among students who play high school sports, only about 2 percent are awarded college athletic scholarships, and there is much more money available for academic scholarships.
By Jamell Andrews