Tips for Parents to Help their Kids Pick the Right Sport
Helping your child find the best sport(s) that fit his or her interests and abilities can be an overwhelming and daunting task. With so many sports now being offered year-round, it sometimes seems almost impossible to drill down to a sport or two that best fits your child. And what if you pick the wrong sport? Will your child be forever doomed, or are there chances to correct the mistake?
Helping your child find the best fit sport(s) is not easy, and there is always the risk you could get it wrong regardless of the decision-making process you use. Fortunately, you can increase your odds for success by using the following tips:
- Provide multiple experiences. Keep an eye out for the different sports and leagues that are offered in your community (call your local recreation department for more help), and talk to your child to gauge his or her interest. The good news is that most youth sport opportunities for small kids don’t last very long, meaning that even if your child dislikes the sport it will be over before you know it.
- Learn about your child’s preferences and abilities. While watching your child compete take note of characteristics that might help you decide on what sports best match your child. For example, if your child is aggressive, football or wrestling might be a good fits. Similarly, a more reserved, calculating child might enjoy bowling or golf. And if your child has a motor that never stops, perhaps soccer, cross country, or basketball are sports to consider.
- Discuss your child’s experiences. Check in with your child regularly to see what he or she says about the sports you try. As you go through this process, try to discern what qualities are going to be constant (i.e. soccer will always involve running), and what things will change (i.e. if your child doesn’t like the current coach chances are there will be a new coach next year).
- Support your child. Offer positive reinforcement, cheer, and talk about your child’s success on the field. From those exchanges try to evaluate his or her interest in the sport, and level of motivation to play the sport again in the future.
- Allow for change. Love your child unconditionally, meaning accept his or her views on a sport even if they are different from yours. Help your child finish out the season if at all possible, and discuss options of other sports to try.
- Don’t specialize too soon, and create breaks throughout the year. Two big trends that have developed over the past decade are specializing in one sport, and playing sports year-round. Until your child has played many different sports I would not advise even considering specializing, and if you fail to create regular breaks from sports it can lead to greater risk for injuries and sports burnout.
Helping your child find the best sport fit is no easy task, but with your help, support, and guidance you can offset some of the stress associated with this decision. At the end of the day you will need to decide about things like the level of contact a sport requires, how much running and cardio will be involved, the costs (time, money, and travel) associated with the sport, and to the degree a sport is more individual versus team. There is no one place to get these answers, but the more you involve yourself in the process, the better chances you find the sports best suited to your child.
For more help check out The Athlete’s Guide to Mental Toughness or Sport Success 360.