Helping Your Kid Pick “Their” Sport

So you’ve got an athletic kid who loves all things sports. That’s awesome news for fitness, right? But not so much for your family’s already-busy schedule. Or maybe your kid doesn’t play sports yet, but you don’t know where to start with helping them find the right one.

Need some help helping them choose? Here are some tips for how to pick a sport without breaking the bank for them to try EVERY sport at their school.

Creating a Short List

First, narrow down your options. What sports did Mom, Dad or other siblings play? Would your child like to continue a family tradition? What sports does your child’s friends play? They may find it more comfortable to join a team with kids they know. Does your child just seem to be “built” for a certain sport? Consider these factors when making a list of possible sports together.

Trying Out before Joining a Team

Once you’ve created your short list, it’s time to explore the sports more and even give them a try without committing all the way. Here are some ways for your child to feel out a sport before signing up for the team.

  • Enroll in a camp. It’s typically a much shorter time commitment, maybe a week versus several months of a normal sports season. They can sample the sport and see if it feels like a good fit. Check local high school camps for good prices and variety. One school in my city offers a week-long camp (5 hours per day) where kids play seven different sports (baseball, basketball, football, lacrosse, soccer, volleyball and wrestling). In a short, cost-effective way, they can try lots of different sports.
  • Follow the physical “cues.” Try to align their physical attributes with a sport that favors those traits. For instance, a tall young athlete might try basketball or volleyball. A strong one may try football or wrestling. Good hand/eye coordination? Maybe baseball or softball is the perfect fit.
  • Consider their personality. Some kids can fit into any situation. Others may strongly prefer either a team sport or an individual sport. There are quite a few kids that begin on teams and later gravitate to more individual performance sports, like golf, gymnastics swimming.

Is Picking Now Really that Important?

So much has changed in youth sports during the last generation. kids are often forced to either “pick or stick” with a sport at an increasingly younger age than ever before. This generation often chooses early specialization in a single sport.

Focusing in can be nice because your family can really rally around that sport. Your kid can pay extra attention to developing their skills and you can schedule more easily. But there are downsides too. There’s evidence that your child may be at greater risk for overuse injury and burnout. Also, the “eggs in one basket” approach could unravel if your child ends up attending a highly-competitive school that cuts in that sport.

That doesn’t mean that your child can’t switch once they pick. Maybe they’ll need a few seasons of different sports to find the fit for them. For my oldest, he found his “new sport” as a sophomore in high school. Their interests – and their physical abilities – can change over time. As a parent, it’s important to be willing to change too. What’s most important? That your kid likes to play and has fun doing it.

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