As fall gets into full swing, many families find themselves knee-deep in sports practices, games, and piles of dirty uniforms in the laundry. With all of the effort it takes to have kids participate in sports, it can be easy to wonder if it’s all worth it. While not all researchers agree on all points, many researchers do concur that sports have advantages for kids far beyond fitness. If you’re considering signing your child up for a sport, it might be helpful to consider some of the following benefits of sports.
Kidshealth.org states, “Organized sports can help kids grow in many ways. From soccer to fencing, sports offer chances for kids to learn and master skills, work with their peers and coaches, and challenge themselves in a safe environment. They learn the value of practice and the challenge of competition.” (http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/family/signing_sports.html)
Sports have even been shown to have a positive effect on grades. In a study highlighted in TIME magazine, researchers in the UK Researchers examined 5,000 11-year-olds, measuring the length and intensity of physical activity they participated in over 3 to 7 days. When they compared their activity levels with their scholastic performance in English, math, and science, they found that the “more moderate to vigorous physical activity a child had, the higher they scored on their tests” (Sifferlin, Alexandra, “Study: More Active Teens Get Higher Test Scores,” TIME, Oct. 22, 2013)
When Should My Child Start to Play Sports?
Mary L. Gavin, MD, Senior Medical Editor of KidsHealth, presents a great review of topics surrounding kids and sports on KidsHealth.org. She recommends that “As you think about signing kids up for sports, consider how emotionally and physically ready they are to participate. Signing up too early can end up being frustrating for everyone, and can turn kids off from sports for good.” (http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/family/signing_sports.html)
While there are sports programs for younger children, Gavin believes that “it’s not until about age 6 or 7 that most kids develop the appropriate physical skills or the attention span needed to listen to directions and grasp the rules of the game.”
What Sport Should We Choose?
“If kids show an interest in a sport, try to let them do it,” Gavin writes. “Even if the sport doesn’t turn out to be a good fit, your child will learn much from the experience.”
Some things to consider when choosing:
- Your child’s temperament—some kids do well in team sports, while others prefer to focus on individual effort.
- Schedule—how will practices and games affect the daily life of your child and the family?
- Your involvement—how involved do you want to be in your child’s sport? Do you want to coach, bring snacks, carpool with other families, etc? Being involved can be a great way to spend time with your kids and show them you’re interested in what they do.
- Your child’s health—be sure to have a physical exam before beginning any sports program, to catch any health concerns before they become problematic. Some sports can be managed with adaptations for health conditions, while others may not be so easy to adapt.
- Don’t force it—Sharing your interests with your children is wonderful, but don’t force them into a sport just because you used to be good at it. And if your child simply isn’t having fun at their sport, it doesn’t benefit them or you.
For ideas on what sport might be of interest to your child, check out the articles and lists on About.com and PopSugar.com. There may be a few on there that you’ve never heard of before, or may not have considered for your child. Along with the more traditional sports of baseball, basketball, tennis, and soccer, these lists include some of the following more unique ideas:
- Field hockey
- Jump roping
- Table tennis
- Tap Dancing
- Ultimate(Ultimate Frisbee)
- Water polo
Whichever sport you and your family choose, don’t forget to take up a sport of your own to encourage your budding athlete: Cheerleading!