What Sport Should my Kid Start Playing First?
One of the questions we get asked all the time is “what sport should my kid start playing first?”
For many parents, playing in an organized league seems like the natural first step in getting kids to be more active. But to get the most benefits out of sports and to ensure a successful experience, the child must be ready.
As the youth sports culture is changing, we’re starting to see many trends which can harm children’s sports experience more than help them. Here are the top five mistakes parents of 5-year-olds have made in the US:
1. Signing Up for Organized Sports Too Early
Learning skills like throwing, running and jumping is a normal process that children go through. They learn each skill in little bits, and some learn faster than others. By the time your child is between 3 and 5 years old, they will have learned some of these basic skills. To play organized sports, children need to learn how to put these skills together (for example, how to run and throw at the same time). Though every child is different, typically that doesn’t happen until they are about 6 years old. If they start in an organized team too early that does not help develop these skills, then there is a high likelihood of them having a frustrating experience (and not want to go). When you wait until they are ready, they will have a successful experience and want to keep going.
2. Not Using Age-Appropriate Equipment and Fundamentals
Think developmentally age-appropriate equipment here. Smaller feet, smaller ball. Using softer, smaller balls, the right size rackets and bats, and hoops set at the appropriate height can make a world of a difference in learning the fundamentals. Kids are still learning how to control their body and it’s important they learn how to conquer skills at their own level.
3. Not Engaging as a Parent and Playing With Them
This is a tough one! We’ve heard from many parents who are just looking for a place to drop off their kids to “get their energy out.” While we totally get that you could use some relief there is a way to approach activity in a more constructive way. In these early years, you are the world to your kids. Anything you do is an example of how they want to be. It’s incredibly important for you to get out there, play with them, teach them and just have fun with sports. In fact, set it on your schedule as a weekly sports date! The more positive experiences they have with you and the sport, the more likely they’ll have a long-term healthy relationship with sports and exercise.
4. Introducing them to a Competitive Environment too Early
Competition is a great motivator as kids get older, but when they are too young to understand, it can lead to a lot of tears (and frustration). If your child shows an interest or talent in a sport, the question of competition comes up very quickly. Experts in both youth sports and child development agree: Kids are not ready for competition until they are at least 8 years old. Before that, they just can’t handle the stresses of winning, losing, and being measured and scored on their performance. For children under 8, sports should be about physical activity, having fun, learning new skills, and laying the groundwork for good sportsmanship.
5. Not Making Sure it’s Fun!
Of course we want our kids to get active, use their energy and follow instructions, but it’s important to not lose sight of the fact that kids crave fun! When sports programs become too instructional or too focused on technique, it can suck the fun out of it. Remember the days when you just went outside and played and came up with your own games? Let kids have the freedom to use their imagination, make their own sports rules and just have fun!
AND don’t forget! Check out these tips on de-cluttering by getting rid of old sports equipment.
So what are some things you can do now to get your 5-year-old ready for sports? Our biggest advice is to work on the fundamentals with them! Checkout our checklist below and get started today!