With a wide range of sports and an abundance of quality programs to choose from, selecting the right sport and program for your kids can be challenging. Following are three key factors to consider can help when evaluating different sports programs.
1) What is the most important factor when choosing a sport for my child?
Your child should be interested in playing the sport. If they are reluctant to try it, find out if the program will let them test it for a couple of weeks, and if it ends up being a good fit, they can continue. When your child starts a new program, observe how the coaches run the practices. If you do not feel it is a good fit, it is okay to remove your child from the program. Programs should give full refunds if a child drops out for any reason after the first couple of weeks. Sports teams are about kids having fun and being physically fit and healthy, not about the program itself or the parents.
2) How soon should my child start focusing on just one sport?
As long as there are opportunities for your child to compete in several sports, they should do so. Different sports require different skills, so the more sports they play, the more well-rounded and physically fit they will be. Kids learn on their own what they are good at and what they like. Having young kids focus only on one sport takes that decision away from them. Furthermore, there is a risk the child may burn out by the time they get to middle school and will not have a base in other sports that gives them confidence to try new ones. Parents need to remember that just because they were successful or unsuccessful in a sport does not necessarily mean their child will be the same way. By the time kids are in middle school, they understand their strengths and weaknesses, what they really enjoy doing, and where they will be the most competitive.
3) When should my child move from a recreational program to a competitive program?
If kids are in a league that has games and those games have winners and losers, that is a competitive league. If your athlete is having fun and improving their skills in the league, then that league is probably a good fit. If they are not having fun or being challenged, it is time to try a different league. By the time kids are 7 or 8, they can be competing in games and have the ability to accept winning and losing. That said, kids develop mentally and physically at different ages. Some kids may need a more competitive environment at a younger age than their peers. Other kids may not be as ready to be in the same competitive environment as their peers, and that is okay as well.
Gabe Hurley was a four-sport high school athlete who played college football. He founded Stapleton All Sports in 2009 to help develop children’s basic athletic skills. He can be reached at StapletonAllSports@gmail.com.