Each new season brings opportunities to sign your children up for individual and team sports. Sports are a terrific way to teach leadership skills and teamwork, encourage confidence and build endurance. Signing up for a new sports activity is an exciting time for both children and parents, but it is important to consider several things before making a commitment.
Choose the right level and intensityBefore selecting a team or individual sport, it is important to understand what your child wants to do and his or her anticipated skill level. Do they want a competitive or casual environment? Are they more interested in the technical or physical aspect of sports? Asking questions like these will help you and your child choose an appropriate sport and skill level.
Decide on a team or individual sportMany children thrive in a competitive, high-impact sports environment like football, basketball or hockey. However, it’s important to understand your child’s strengths and preferences so that you can find a good match. It may be that she prefers low-impact or individual sports like swimming, gymnastics or tennis. When children are challenged while doing something they enjoy, it increases their motivation and desire to succeed.
Make sure the environment is safeJust as you would consult your physician before beginning a new exercise regimen, your child also needs a checkup. This will help determine if he or she is fit enough to participate in a vigorous physical activity on a regular basis. Also, if the team provides equipment, it's important to confirm the integrity of that equipment. Are there any cracks in the helmets? Do the shoulder or shin pads show signs of excessive wear and tear? Finally, make sure the coaches follow heat guidelines to prevent dehydration and heat-related illness. Follow-up with the coaches to confirm if there is an emergency action plan with clearly defined protocols in place should any child become ill or injured. Children who participate in sports are at risk of injuries like ankle or hamstring sprains, pulled muscles, shin splints, tennis elbow and various knee injuries. Take the time to teach your child how to prevent common injuries, talk to the coach about warm-up activities, and their policy on handling muscle fatigue during a game or practice.
Consider the time commitmentBefore selecting a sport for your child, make sure your family has enough time to commit to it. Find out how often and how long practices are, and don't forget to inquire about the weekend and travel commitments. Remember, signing up for a sports team or other organization is a lifestyle choice that requires you – the parent – to give up some of your time so your child can enjoy their sports experience, learn new skills and have fun.
Understand the financial investmentIt is important to understand the fees associated with any sport or extracurricular activity before committing to it. If you didn’t already know, registration fees are only the beginning. The cost of equipment, uniforms and travel-related expenses could catch you by surprise without proper planning. Sports like youth basketball, soccer and baseball are relatively inexpensive in the beginning; however, costs can add up if your child participates in competitions or joins a league. What could start as an investment of a few hundred dollars may quickly become a few thousand dollars when you consider paid coaching, training, and travel.
By taking the time to understand everything involved in participating in team or individual sports, you'll know what to expect and be better prepared throughout the season. Doing your research (e.g. asking other parents, online research) will help reduce your stress and allow your children to enjoy the experience while you cheer them on from the sidelines.
If you have any tips that would be helpful for other readers, please leave a comment below.