Many parents wonder if their child should be on a sports team. Some sports start quite early, with children younger than kindergarten participating. Alternately, some little leagues may offer clinics rather than competitive games for the younger children. Before signing a child up for a sports team, one should assess the child’s maturity, ability to follow instructions, interest in the sport, and any tendencies toward being overly competitive. Also, reading any rules about expected behavior, parent participation and game schedules may all influence one’s decision.
If a family enjoys sports together, a child may have an early interest in joining a sports team. Especially if mom or dad plays sports too, a four to five year old child may want to emulate them. If a league exists for a child this young, it may be a perfect time for him or her to join a sports team.
Parents who enjoy sports may not necessarily have a child with the same interest. If a young child doesn’t want to join a sports team, it might not be a good idea to force the issue. The child should be allowed the ability to decide, especially if very young. He or she may be much happier pursuing other interests than participating on a sports team. Later on the child may manifest more interest in sports, especially if the issue has not been one of contention.
Children in grades kindergarten and up usually have options to join a sports team in a variety of different sports. While some children equally enjoy all sports, some may find one that is of particular interest. For example, the baseball fanatic may not be equally thrilled with playing soccer. Because participation on a sports team can take lots of time, you may also want to consider not overscheduling a child, especially if they are having trouble completing homework or keeping up in school. Many parents limit their kids to one sport a year.
In these early years, where sports are not overly competitive, this gives a child several years to try out different sports and decide which ones he or she likes. One year could be for trying out soccer, the next for baseball or softball, and the third for basketball. Or if the child instantly loves soccer, that might become the sport of choice in the upcoming years.
A child’s ability influences the degree to which he or she enjoys sports. If the child is just not good at a sport, particularly a younger child, he or she may just need time to develop fine and gross motor skills. A highly competitive team might be damaging to a child’s ego, if all emphasis is on skill. If the child enjoys sports but is not very good, look for a sports team that emphasizes valuing each player, learning the rules and fair play. As the child matures and becomes more adept, the skills tend to come, though not at an equal rate among players.
Also, if the local sports team or league is highly competitive, you may want to look elsewhere. Leagues that don’t specifically emphasize respectful behavior to children by coaches tend to be poor ones. Further, if one coach seems inappropriate to your child, contact the league and see if you can move the child onto another sports team. Especially if you note a coach yelling at, or berating kids, get your child off the team and inform the league.
Some kids, especially younger ones, may just be, for lack of a better word, “spacey.” They may be sit in the outfield, or on a soccer field and simply enjoy the buttercups or a bird passing overhead. If they exhibit this tendency, they may not really be ready to join a sports team. Some parents do counter that children learn more focus by having their attention called back to a game. Yet if they’re just not ready because of all the interesting things that distract them, having them abruptly pulled down to earth by the shout (even a nice one) of a coach may not be the best thing. In these cases, you may want to take your child on nice long walks, great for exercise that allow them to explore their world, rather than have them participate on a sports team.