To say that my family is involved in youth sports is an understatement. Between my two boys, they currently participate in football, baseball, soccer, basketball, karate, gymnastics, dance, and bowling (which I guess could be considered a sport since I heard it will be in the Olympics soon!). Life is crazy at times but I let the boys participate in what they want to and have seen the many benefits that sports have brought to our family.
While my oldest is the “play everything” type, my youngest has been a lot pickier about what he wanted to do and it took a lot of trial and error to find what he loves and what he can have a successful experience participating in. Lucas struggled with the concepts of football (in his eyes intercepting the ball was cheating), thought the hour long karate class was boring and had too many rules, and didn’t really enjoy the running back and forth involved in a soccer game (which meant he spent the whole hour just wandering around the field). He does however, love the creativity he can express through dance, enjoy showing off his cartwheels at gymnastics and playing all positions on a baseball field (simultaneously lol). Thankfully we found places that can accomodate his special needs and he is thriving (mom brag alert…. he’s headed to the state competion for gymnastics through the Special Olympics!!)
I thought I’d share some of the things we learned while trying to find the perfect fit for him in hopes that it could help another parent find what works for their child without the years or trial and error we went through. Though he’s on the Autism Spectrum which probably led to some of the issues we’ve had, I think most of these things to think about can be considered for kids of all abilities. Here are some things to consider before choosing a sport for your young child to try:
What do they gravitate to during play?
Next time you head outside pay attention to what your child tends to gravitate to. Do they love playing catch? Are they kicking things around? When indoors, what active things are they doing at playtime? Do they like to wrestle with their siblings? Do they love to dance around the house? Do they pretend to be ninjas? These natural tendencies during play can give you a clue to what sport they might enjoy!
Is there anything they are naturally good at?
Sometimes children show talent at a young age for something and I think that’s definitely a sport to consider if they seem to also enjoy it. For example, my nephew and neice’s brother, who is three, was playing a carnival like hockey game this past weekend and he was hitting the ball into the goal more often than most of the children that played the game even though he was the youngest of the group by about four years. One of the adults joked that he might be a future hockey star, and though he was joking, it did seem that he might have some natural talent when it comes to hockey that may be worth exploring.
What sport is a good fit for their personality?
Sometimes a child’s personality or temperament will help guide what would be (and would not be) a good fit for them. Here are some things to ask yourself:
- Team sport or individual sport? Does the child play well with others or prefer to play on their own? For example, a child who plays well with others might enjoy a team sport like football but someone who prefers to play on their own may like a solo sport like ice skating or golf.
- In the spotlight or out of it? For example, a child who likes being in the spotlight may love a sport that is performed in front of an active audience like a ball game, but a child who is shy may prefer a sport that is done without a large crowd like swimming where they are in water and tuning out the people in the stands.
- Follow the rules or create their own? For example, kids who love rules would like karate where their every step is coordinated while kids who want to be creative would probably enjoy dance more.
- Competitive or not? For example, a child who loves competition may enjoy a team sport that keeps score like lacrosse and a child who gets anxious during competition may enjoy a sport that doesn’t keep score, like gymnastics or karate.