Today the world is filled with many opportunities for children and youth to engage in sports activities of all varieties. How do you help the child choose? There are programs offered at various commitment levels as far as time and money are concerned. You should offer the child choices within their interests based on the limits of your budget and the reality of parent schedules.
Reasons to be in sports:
An important point to consider is that children have a physical need to move in order to develop strong and healthy bodies. Participation in sports is a great way to be sure they get exercise. Most children have fewer minutes of moderate to vigorous activity during their school day than what is needed for healthy body development. Their minds will also benefit from movement. Organized sport or physical activity, when done with other children, will build social skills and contacts. Youth sport is a part of our culture. Participation helps children feel connected to their community. Children will build self-esteem as they learn skills. Exploration of different activities can be fun and build an appreciation and first hand knowledge-based understanding of sport.
Choosing a sport or activity:
Some children will leave no doubt in the parents' minds which sports they want to try. From an early age they gravitate toward a sport and are happiest when they are participating. Be sure to get those children involved in the sport of their passion. Football, basketball, softball, soccer, hockey, volleyball, gymnastics, swimming, water polo, wrestling, golf, tennis, track and field, comprise most of the traditional offerings. Some children and teens love these sports and are drawn to them. If that is the case with your child, encourage their interest! There are several choices of programs in most communities. Choose what fits your family's needs.
Don't be afraid to encourage off -season exploration with alternatives for your passionate athlete. Your child will learn to appreciate other sports and skills and round out their life experience. Sometimes they may need a break from their favorite sport. Talk this over with them as they decide whether to stay with their favorite or try something else. Be sure they are clear about their reasons. They may discover a hidden talent when trying a new activity.
Some children don't think they like sports. Help them see past the obvious sports to an ever growing list of activity choices. Options include dance, yoga, archery, competitive cheer, la cross, crew, martial arts, rugby, bowling, roller blade skating, biking, skiing, snowboarding, figure skating and more. There are programs that are offered for all levels of ability and interest. You might want to begin by having your child enrolled in a lesson or class rather than on a team. Read listings from recreation centers, community school programs, skating rinks, bowling alleys, ski lodges, dance studios, martial arts schools and more. Find a few to choose from that will fit your time and budget. Don't limit the choice based on parent interests. Children may have some very different ideas of what sounds like fun. Explore with the child. Everyone will learn.
Remember that whatever you choose, there will be another season or class coming up soon. If your child is excited about a sport or activity, be sure to let them try the next level or challenge. If they were less than thrilled, try a new sport the next time out.
Lynn Benson is a retired Physical Education teacher, former Aquatic Supervisor, and the mother of 3 and grandmother of 7. This article is based on her observations and opinion.