Youth sports programs deliver incredible benefits to children: from encouraging physical activity and helping guide healthy choices to fostering leadership and independence, there’s a lot to love! (Plus, having a happy, tired kid at bedtime… golden!). How do you help your child choose the right sport for them?
What Are the Best Sports for Kids?
It depends! The best sport for your kid depends on his/her interests, age, physical and emotional maturity, and whether or not your child has any medical conditions that need to be considered. (Always get your child’s pediatrician’s OK before you enroll your kid in a youth sports program. Your school/team’s coaching staff may also require a signed physician’s form.)
Let’s talk about age- and stage-appropriate activities first.
Under 5: Choose activities that are not as highly structured, time intensive, or complicated. Good examples include soccer, biking, gymnastics, karate, t-ball, and swimming.
Age 5-12: Children have developed more refined motor skills and can grasp more complicated rules/maneuvers. Options include basketball, baseball, soccer, volleyball, track and field, tennis, martial arts, golf, horseback riding, and golf.
Teens: At this age, student athletes branch into more time-consuming and intensive options. They can also be more expensive (e.g., hockey, football). But in general, their bodies and minds are ready for just about anything in terms of sports, as long as they are competing against like-sized peers.
But you also need to consider what types of sports are right for your family — not just what the best sports for kids are. After all, you will be the one driving you child to and from games and practices, paying for equipment and gear, etc.
What to Consider When Evaluating Youth Sports Programs
- Time commitments. Do you have time to spend every weekend going to tournaments, or do you have work and other obligations? If so, how can you arrange transportation? Also consider your child’s time commitments: will he/she have sufficient time to devote to his/her studies, family, and other obligations?
- Cost. Do you have money in the budget for pricey gear, uniforms, shoes, etc.? Remember, there could be lower costs options you can pursue that are just as fun and fulfilling.
- Conflicts. Do you have other children engaging in other sports and activities? You’ll have to juggle your schedule or rely on help from other parents or family members.
It’s about your child’s needs, but also about how different youth sports programs affect the rest of your family’s lives. Rest assured, there are plenty of options that will work for your schedule, budget, and child’s development. Whether it’s physical education class, a school sports team, a club at a local children’s organization, or an organized sports league, you can find the right fit.