4 Questions Every Parent Needs to Ask If Their Kid Wants to Play Team Sports

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Thu, 02/08/2018 - 7:00am
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Girl playing softball

Ready to be a football dad or a soccer mom? The thought of it may provoke a broad spectrum of responses, but if you have kids, it may be inevitable. Kids love to play, and organized sports are accessible, available and affordable.

You might have a kid who has wanted to be a football player since they could walk. Or, maybe you have a little ballerina in your house. Some kids are natural athletes right away, others might take some to develop these skills while some have no interest at all.

Team sports can be a valuable growing and learning experience for your child, but how do you know when they’re ready? Ask yourself these four questions.

1. Does your child express an interest in sports?

Most kids won’t wait around to be asked to play soccer, football or basketball. They will play various sports at school and have friends who are in extracurricular leagues.

They will let you know if they want to play—and probably before any information is sent home from the school. If not, ask them about it and see how they react. Reluctance should promote discussion as to why they don’t want to participate.

2. Do they already demonstrate athletic ability?

Children’s motor skills develop at different rates. How athletic is your child? Do they run fast? Can they throw a ball with accuracy? Can they make a basket or hit a baseball?

They don’t have to be the best at whatever sport they choose—they just must have the fundamental ability, along with interest. You don’t want to put them in a position where they will be the comic relief for those in attendance or where they are setting themselves up for failure.

3. How are your child’s social skills?

Does your child love to run off and play with the neighborhood kids? Do they always find friends at the park? Or, do you have a leg hugger who refuses to leave your side?

Kids will develop their social skills throughout their lives, but you want to make sure they can survive doing what is needed of them in team sports.

You might be at their game, but you aren’t going to be on the field with them. You can’t take their shots. You can’t swing the bat for them. Make sure they are independent and confident enough to be without you for the time needed to participate in sports.

4. Can they handle the stress of losing—or even winning?

Even with the rise of participation trophies and no-score games, kids usually know whether they have won or lost a game. If they don’t, count on one of their peers to let them know. How will your child react to this situation? Do they throw a tantrum when they don’t get their way?

In sports, there is no guarantee they will be satisfied with the outcome of every game—in fact, they often will not be. Is your child ready for giving it their best but coming up short? It’s part of sports and part of life.

How to Help Grow Your Child’s Love of Sport

So, if they are ready, how do you get them interested or help them find the right sport? Physical activity is essential for your child’s health and well-being. It helps them develop strength, agility and motor skills.

Your child will likely have their favorite sport in mind. If that is the case, your job is a little simpler. You just have to play with them and practice that sport. You may have to dust off your athletic ability or use some muscles that have been at rest for a while. That’s okay—sports are good for you, too!

If your child has a general interest in sports or just wants to try something out, this may be a little more challenging. Start with some inexpensive sports like basketball or soccer, where you pretty much just need a ball and a place to play. Soccer and basketball are widely accessible through the school systems or community organizations, as well.

See how they do and expect them to get discouraged. Learning a new sport is challenging, especially when, as a beginner, you must compete with those who excel at it. Accept constructive criticism from coaches and teammates, and encourage your child put those points into action.

Only some kids are good right away—most need to work hard and practice to achieve success. This will be a valuable learning experience for you, as well as your child.

Don’t Force Them to Play

It’s important to find a balance between insisting your child finds an activity and forcing them to do something they don’t like or aren’t good at. Staying the course is excellent as long as you aren’t so stubborn you teach your kid to go down with a sinking ship.

If they become miserable participating in their sport, talk to them and figure out if quitting is a good idea. It’s not a lesson we teach our children—but staying with something you don’t like and that doesn’t suit you isn’t a smart idea, either.

Tell your child they don’t have to continue playing basketball or baseball, as long as they finish out the season. Teach them the value of being loyal to their team. After the season is over, try something else.

Be cautious of what your aspirations might be for your child. Do you want them to be a high school sports star like you were? Do you want them to be one because you weren’t one? Maybe you were cut from the cheerleading squad or sat on the bench throughout the entire football season.

You may be determined to give your child all the opportunities they need to succeed. While that’s noble and well-intended, make sure your efforts are wanted and appreciated by your child. In other words, make sure you’re doing this for them—not for yourself.

Genetics can play a role in athleticism, but there are no guarantees. Your son or daughter may be a better soccer player than you were or have no interest in it at all. You could have a future scientist suffering on the basketball court while you watch in frustration.

It’s important to give your kids opportunities to play and pursue sports, as they will learn lifelong lessons. However, make sure they are ready, interested and able to enjoy and excel at them—you will both be much happier.

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