There are so many benefits to youth sports (or extracurricular activities – like band, music, or art). Some parents choose to put their kids in sports as early as 3 or 4. Others may choose to wait until 6 or 7 when the child has gotten into the swing of school. Either way, I encourage parents to get kids involved in some activity when the timing feels right for their child. Beyond the benefit of physical activity, here are a few other pros to having kids in youth sports.
Learning to be part of a team
Being a part of a team gives them much-needed exposure to concepts like working together well, and seeing that things are bigger than themselves. For example, in group sports, the team can’t win unless all the players are working together. Even if one player is playing excellently, the entire team needs to play well together for the win.
Expanding their social network
Youth activities give kids a chance to become friends with people who have similar interests, but maybe aren’t in proximity to them normally. In other words, kids from different schools can become friends at a youth activity even if they don’t see each other throughout the week at school. This can be especially helpful for kids who maybe don’t have as many close friends at their school, or who are new to the school.
Growing with a new adult in charge
It is a great experience for your child to be under the influence of another grown-up. This helps them to generalize their listening skills to other people – outside of you and their teachers. Encourage them to be respectful by talking with them ahead of time about your expectations for them when someone else is in charge. Share your family values with your child as you are driving to the first practice so they know how and why to behave.
Tips for youth activities
- Start with something that is a short season and inexpensive. As you are just getting started, try to find a sport or activity that is a short season that doesn’t cost too much. This will minimize the likelihood that you will quit early – or get frustrated because your kid wants to quit early (if you don’t pay too much, you won’t be as upset if it doesn’t turn out the way you want it to!)
- Have low expectations. I know this sounds weird, but if we have low expectations, we are more likely to be pleased at the end. Don’t go into the first couple of experiences with the expectation that your child is going to LOVE it or be amazing at it. That’s okay! If you go into it knowing it may just be a luke-warm response from your child, you are less likely to be disappointed.
- Remember what the whole point is. The point for youth activities is to give them something to do, learn to be a part of a time, expand their social network and follow instructions from another adult. If they are running around or staring at the wall for most of the game – that’s okay. If they are having fun, that’s the best part.