Soccer, basketball, baseball, football, lacrosse, hockey, swimming, gymnastics, tennis, golf—the list goes on and on. Every season there is a long list of possible sports for your child to try for the first time. Most 6 year olds can’t sign themselves up for a youth sports league or camp, so it’s up to us as the parents to pick and choose which sport they’ll try this season. But which sport should you register them for? There are plenty of “normal” sports to try, but there are also just as many fun alternatives like rowing, ultimate Frisbee, rock climbing and more to consider. So which sport is the best for your child?
Choosing a sport based on size.
Most five year olds are the same size, but as kids get older size starts to matter when it comes to sports. A young girl might get her growth spurt in the 5th grade and suddenly she’s a lot taller than most of the other kids, including the boys, in her class—sports like basketball and volleyball (where height is a huge asset) might be worth a go. Meanwhile, if a 12 year old boy hasn’t had his growth spurt yet he might be playing football against kids that are several inches taller and many pounds heavier. His size could actually work against him for a while, so maybe fencing, a sport where size isn’t as important as speed, could be a fun alternative.
Keep in mind that if your child truly loves playing a particular sport, even if they aren’t the “perfect size” for it, there’s no need to pull them from the field. The goal is to keep kids happy and interested in youth sports, and sometimes their size and strength can work for or against that so it’s important to turn a negative into a positive.
Choosing a sport based on your child’s attention span.
Most little kids are a bundle of energy and if your child has an extra hard time sitting still hanging around in the outfield might be the absolute opposite of a good time. Baseball, and even football, involves a lot of set-up and standing around, so maybe sports like hockey or lacrosse where they are constantly moving around would be a better fit. Remember, we want kids to WANT to play sports and enjoy being active because it’s an attitude that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Being bored doesn’t really encourage that. Other kids might prefer a sport that goes at a slower pace or has fewer moving components to worry about. The CDC recommends that kids get 60 or more minutes of physical activity each day so whatever speed your child likes to play at is fine as long as we keep them active!
Choosing a sport based on team versus individual competition.
Not every kid is going to do well in a team sport like soccer or lacrosse, so they might be better suited to a more individualized sport like swimming, golf, or tennis. Your child is still part of a larger team or club, but on the court it comes down to what they do, what they know, and how well they play on their own. Their successes (and failures) are completely their own. Some kids thrive on the individualized attention and really enjoy relying on just themselves.
At the end of the day, the “right” sport for your child is the one that makes them the happiest. Which sport gets them excited? Which sport can they not wait to get to? If they love doing it then it’s the right sport for them!