Sports can be a source of fun and physical fitness throughout your child’s life. However, there are myriad sports to choose from—from football, basketball, and ice hockey to horseback riding, martial arts, and competitive dance. Here are some guidelines to find the ideal sport for your child.
Expose your child to a variety of sports
To help your child choose a sport, experts recommend exposing him or her to a wide variety of competitive activities (source: Wayne Parker, fatherhood expert).
Not only does the exposure help your child narrow down his or her interests, it can also be a fun chance to bond. Here are some ways to integrate sports into your child’s life:
- Take him or her to a local game of baseball, basketball, or soccer.
- Watch national and international tennis, golf, and even Ping-Pong tournaments on TV.
- Play basic versions of sports like volleyball and rugby in your backyard or your local park.
- Tune in to the Olympics, FIFA World Cup, World Series, etc.
- Attend community Judo demonstrations, gymnastics meets, and ballroom dance competitions.
Exposure to a wide variety of sports can help your child fine-tune their interests and find the sport that best suits his or her interests and abilities.
Don’t limit your child’s options based on your expectations
It’s great to pick up a mitt, new cleats, and baseball pitching videos if your child is really invested in baseball. In fact, many experts say that children who want to have a future in college or professional sports should begin perfecting their technique early by using baseball pitching videos.
But don’t hire a personal pitching coach just because you pitched in college. Your child may distinguish themselves in another position, or even in a different sport entirely.
Not every child will become the pitcher, goalie, or quarterback. Pushing your child into a position, sport, or particular team may actually deter them from pursuing sports down the road. Being forced to do something can be frustrating for kids and create resentment towards the sport itself or even you.
Be encouraging, but if your child is more interested in joining the swim team or learning taekwondo than putting on football pads, don’t push them to go to football tryouts.
Encourage trial and error
Many children, including those who become world-class athletes, try out several sports before they find the one that fits them best. This trial and error is healthy and normal, and should be encouraged. Here are some ways you can help streamline the process:
Factor in your child’s preferences: Ruling out sports will likely be easier than choosing between your child’s top two or three choices. For example, some children prefer team sports, while others excel at individual competition. Determining which category your child prefers narrows their options considerably.
Help your child research: If your child is interested in trying a new sport—especially a specialized activity like fencing or BMX biking—you may not have the funds or patience to sign them up for a trial run.
Instead, rent some competition videos, check out some books about the sport, and talk to friends or family members who have participated in the sport. More often than not, your child will lose interest without you having to invest any money.
With so many sports to choose from, it can be difficult to determine which will best fit your child’s needs. But by exploring the options, keeping an open mind, and letting your child try his or her hand at several kinds of athletics you can help your child find their ideal sport.
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