For many parents, especially those there were involved in sports organizations when they were younger, registering their children for a youth sports team of their own is something they can’t wait to do. Many sports-minded dads (and moms!) can’t wait to play catch in the backyard, shoot hoops in the driveway, or put their kids on the ice for the first time. Belonging to some league or another has almost become a childhood rite of passage for many families in the US. But the questions remains—what is the right age to sign a child up for youth sports?
Unfortunately, there is no sports fairy that will appear one day telling you your child is ready to play sports. Life would certainly be a lot easier if there was though! If you are thinking about joining a youth sports organization and want to know if your child is ready here are two things to consider (and keep in mind they are pretty dependent on the child himself):
In order to join a youth sports team, even if it is just tee-ball, you want to make sure your child is physically ready to do so. This shouldn’t be an issue for most kids, but you want to make sure your child has the stamina, endurance and strength to play sports and actually enjoy it! It’s hard to have a good time if you’re exhausted five minutes into practice. Sports are a great way to get kids up and active, but you want to make sure your child can make it through a whole game without crashing.
You also have to consider how old your child is and what sport they want to play. A five-year-old trying soccer for the first time doesn’t need to be super fast or strong, but if your 11-year-old decides they want to play football they’ll be going up against other kids that have been playing for several years and might be a lot stronger and quicker than they are. Since most sports leagues organize their teams by age, not necessarily size or skill level, that’s something you’ll want to factor into your decision.
Belonging to a sports team means your child is going to have to get along well with others, work as a team and learn they aren’t always going to be the center of attention. Do you think your child is capable of handling that? One of the biggest benefits of youth sports is that is teaches kids how to be a team player, but if your child doesn’t fully understand the concept of a “team,” which a young child may not, they might not know where they belong or what their role on their new team actually is.
You also have to anticipate how well your child can handle the competition of belonging to you youth sports team, especially if they are a little older. Most U-5 leagues are just about having fun and running around outside, but as teams get older they tend to get a little more serious. Scores will be kept and there will be a winner and a loser at the end of the game.
Remember, if you child just isn’t ready to belong to a youth sports team just let them play! Many parents want to get their kids involved in sports to help keep them active, but a trip to the playground or a bike ride around the block is just as good.