Sports are physical activities that give kids a way to use up some of their energy, keep a healthy weight, develop coordination, and build strength. Sports can help your child build confidence and help reduce anxiety, depression, and stress. Sports also help teach life skills such as teamwork, leadership, patience, and how to set and achieve goals.
Twenty percent of children in the US are overweight. These children are more likely to be overweight adults, which can increase their risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and other health problems. Playing sports is a great way to make exercise fun and help your child learn healthy habits.
Playing sports can help build your child's self-esteem. Giving and getting encouragement and respect from peers can help your child feel good about himself. Drug and alcohol use are less common with teens who play sports.
Sports can also help teach your child how to manage his emotions, such as when he’s frustrated by not doing well or angry at losing. Sports also helps learn how to solve problems, such as how well the team members work together. Finding time for school and sports can teach children how to better manage their time. Being on a team can teach your child about commitment and the benefits of hard work. Studies show that children who play sports work harder in the classroom.
Most children can start to play organized team sports when they are 5 or 6 years old. Basketball and soccer are good sports for even young children to learn. Think about what kind of time, money, and commitment will be involved for you as well as your child. Your child could try school sports, dance classes, or gymnastics. If your school doesn't offer anything, try the YMCA or your local parks and recreation district. Look for a program that matches your child’s abilities and encourages each child to participate. The program should stress helping your child learn skills and have fun rather than focusing only on winning.
Encourage your child to try more than one sport. Focusing on just one sport can lead to burn out. Talk with your child regularly and make sure your child is having fun.
Not all children enjoy team sports. Some children do better at individual sports such as karate. Find out what your child is interested in and what he thinks is fun.
Learn about the sport and be involved if you can. Talk to the coaches and other parents to make sure you are comfortable with them.
Practice with your child. Go to practices and games. Don't yell or get upset at the coach, other players, other parents, the referee, or your child. Your child learns by watching you. Keep your cool.
Have realistic expectations for your child. Don't focus on future college scholarships or professional careers. This can put too much pressure on your child. Very few children will grow up to be professional athletes.
Praise effort, not just outcome. If your child does not make the team, tell your child how proud you are that he tried. Even though your child may not be "first" or "best" or "perfect" in an event or activity, praise him for getting better. Help your child talk through disappointments and losing. Ask him about team members and the coach. Play down the idea of competition. Emphasize having fun.