Choosing Sports for Kids: A How-To Guide for Parents

When children actively participate in organized sports, they reap many benefits both physically and developmentally. Being a part of a team can promote a lifelong love of physical activity as well as teaching kids teamwork, cooperation, and the value of working hard to reach their goals. Some parents are excited about enrolling their children in sports, anxiously awaiting the day their kids are old enough to participate in an activity they enjoyed as a child. On the other hand, parents who didn’t grow up playing sports may feel overwhelmed by the many options available to them when it comes to sports for children. If your young child doesn’t have strong opinions about sports, it can be especially challenging to decide which sport to choose. Here, we offer some things to think about when you’re considering which sport will be a good fit for your family, taking into account your child’s temperament, interests, and skills. 

So, why should my child play sports? What are the benefits of youth sports? First, they’re fun to play, provide good exercise, and encourage healthy competition. Additionally, they help develop children’s hand-eye coordination and motor skills, as well as self-confidence and social skills. Kids come away with an understanding of how to correctly play a game without injuring themselves, how to work hard and practice to improve their skills, cooperate with a variety of people, and value an active lifestyle. They also gain confidence because they’ve successfully learned a new skill and built positive relationships. Especially in a program that encourages good sportsmanship and teamwork, they gain social skills that will benefit them throughout their lives. Further, becoming active early on can get kids into the habit of regular exercise, and that will help them avoid adult health issues like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. 

What’s the right organized sports starting age? It really depends on the individual child. Many experts say six or seven is the ideal age to start a child in sports, but some kids are ready when they’re three years old! For kids between the ages of three and five, free play is a great option, with plenty of kicking, throwing, and running around. If you think your little one is ready for something more structured, consider a Pee Wee League, where kids can learn basic skills necessary to play sports through simple, fun activities they’ll enjoy. 

Between six and nine years old, kids are often ready to move into more structured teams, playing games like t-ball and soccer. In the pre-teen and teen years, it can sometimes be daunting to manage the ever-increasing weekly schedule of activities. It’s worth it to stick with sports, though, because they benefit teens in many areas, including academics. Encourage your children to keep playing, maybe branching out into other sports options. Through all your children’s years of sports, keep things fun for the kids and stay involved as much as you can. 

Of course, there are several factors that should weigh on your decision more than just the age groups for sports. Consider these questions before enrolling your child in a sport: 

  • What is your child’s activity level? If your child has a lot of energy and is always running around, a fast-paced sport like soccer or basketball may be a good fit. Some children, on the other hand, enjoy sports like baseball, which requires short bursts of energy instead of sustained running.
  • How is your child designed, physically? Think about your child’s size and shape when you’re considering the best activity, but don’t let it dictate your decision. Kids who are tall and broad may be better football players than those who are slight and slender, but it’s important to let a child who is passionate about a game give it a try. 
  • Which sports interest your child? If your child loves to watch a certain sport, that can indicate an interest in playing it. Notice what grabs your kids’ attention and ask them if they can imagine themselves playing that game. Remember, you don’t have to choose one sport and stick to it forever- you may have to let your children try a few things before you find a sport that they really enjoy. At i9 Sports®, we believe in letting kids try multiple sports so they can discover what’s right for them.
  • What does the organization you’re considering value most? Everyone likes to win. But if a league has a culture that places a higher value on competition and the final score than on how the game is played, will your child be given full opportunity to develop her skills…or will s/he spend the season on the sideline watching only the best players getting better? If you want your child to have fun and develop, find out what the league values most. 

If you’re looking for a fun experience for your kids in which they can develop athletic skills, build self-confidence, and learn good sportsmanship, i9 Sports® has the program for you. We’re the nation’s largest multi-sport provider, with over 3 million registrations in communities across the United States. Through our recreational sports leagues, camps, and clinics, boys and girls are provided with opportunities to participate in popular sports like flag football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ZIP Lacrosse™, and volleyball. Offering age-appropriate instruction in a convenient, well-organized program that helps kids develop their athletic abilities through fun, safe competition that also helps them learn sportsmanship values. For a positive, stress-free experience for the whole family, find a program near you today!