Ideally, your child plays for a coach who is a great coach – someone who understands teaching opportunities and conveys lessons in a positive, high-end manner. But besides a good trainer, participating in youth-friendly sports programs is essential for your child to enjoy the sport. Choose the wrong program or the wrong league, you may interfere with your child’s desire to play sports.
Just as a coach needs to find a team role in which a young player can be successful, you need to find a youth sports program that suits your child’s age, interests, and level of play. Only by providing your child with a progression of play opportunities that match these factors will you provide the best athletic experience.
For young children participating in organized sports for the first time (ages five to eight), the main focus is fun and teaching basic skills. The fun at this level is to run with a structure and minimum rules. Within two years, your child can fully participate in the adult version of the game and start learning additional individual skills and team concepts. Competition is also offered at this level. Youth sports programs that are developmental and participatory in nature are essential for children of both age groups. You need to make sure that your child’s sports leagues affirm these principles.
As your child ages and develops skills, you may see your child excel in one or more sports. You will then be faced with the decision to place your child in a more advanced and competitive league. Your child will likely have the opportunity to play with older children. It can also be an opportunity for your child to specialize in a sport. In these decisions, carefully weigh the pros and cons. If your child is really into a sport, is competitive, and is more physically mature, playing at higher levels with better players will usually improve their level of play. But your baby is progressing too quickly and you may gain confidence. in it and enjoy the experience.
Avoid specialization – Discover multiple sports
Early specialization introduces the risks of injury, fatigue and loss of intersection with other sports. Several studies (the most recent of which is the 2011 Loyola University Medical Center study) have found an increase in injury incidents associated with early specialization. For children who have not yet reached puberty, specializing in a sport is also risky because physical maturity (change in body type) can limit their ability to be successful in sport. For example, a six foot little girl is unlikely to be successful as a gymnast.
Try to find a balance between your child’s development and these risks, and choose youth sports programs that best match their personality and special abilities. A youth-friendly sports program should be a challenge for your child, but also allow him to benefit from the whole experience.
If your child is on specific travel teams, you should always look for a program that provides good advice. A league that consists mainly of competitive games, but little training time, will not give a coach the opportunity to educate and develop his players.
Remember, too, that talented and competitive athletes always appreciate tournaments that focus on participation. These tournaments can be an opportunity to play with friends in a more relaxed environment. It also offers top athletes the opportunity to develop and practice leadership skills. As a parent concerned about the happiness of your child, you can do much worse than putting your child in a participatory learning league.
Provide opportunities for self-directed play
Finally, give your child the opportunity to play mini-games with other children. This unorganized, independent form of play complements organized sports and provides your child with other essential benefits. [See my Ezine article “The Role of Organized Sports in Your Child’s Life” for an in-depth discussion of the importance of self-directed sports play.