5 Key Decisions for Sports Parents
Sport parents have a lot to think about these days when it comes to providing the best sport experience for their child. Unlike the old days where most kids played a new sport each season (and all kids played in the same leagues — travel leagues didn’t exist), there are more options for student athletes when it comes to sport selection, competition, and even training regimens. When I talk to parents one of the biggest challenges I hear is how confusing youth sports are today, and how difficult it is to find sound, solid advice.
The basics: Key decisions to examine
While every kid is different and brings unique interests and talents to the table when sorting through the youth sport landscape, there are a few basic decisions that all sport parents will need to make with their child. Listed below are 5 of the most common (and important) decisions you will likely experience:
- Sport specialization or sampling. We are seeing kids younger and younger begin specializing (playing only one sport) than ever before, but the decision to specialize is one not to take lightly. While a child may get better at a sport in a shorter period of time by specializing, keep in mind the rate of sport burnout usually increases, too. Other concerns related to specialization include missing out on other sports, or prematurely quitting sports altogether because the child loses interest only playing one sport.
- Contact v. finesse sports. There are a wide variety of sports for kids to choose from, including contact (i.e. football, wrestling) all the way to finesse (i.e. golf, bowling). Parents need to think about how their child stacks up when considering the type of sport to play — is your child aggressive and enjoys contact, or more of a thinker who doesn’t respond well to contact?
- Travel or recreation. Deciding between travel, or elite sports, versus recreation is a big deal for sport families. Travel sports are more competitive, generally more expensive, and take up more time. Recreation sports are not as intense or time consuming, and have fewer costs since travel isn’t a factor.
- When to start organized sports. When do you start kids in organized sports? 3 years old? 6? There is no one perfect answer to this question, but there are consequences to consider. Starting too early may frustrate kids, and starting too late may put kids behind their peers.
- Being a coach. Most youth sport coaches are volunteers — people just like you. Are you interested in coaching and/or volunteering in some way, or do you prefer to simply cheer on kids from the stands?
While the games on the field are not much different today than a generation ago, the issues sport parents experience off the field are very different. Sports burnout, head injuries/concussions, sport specialization, and travel sports are a few examples of contemporary issues previous generations were less aware of, but today pose serious concerns. Do your part as a sport parent and work to determine the best future path unique to your child’s interests, talents, and abilities.