Choosing the Right Sport for Your Child

youth sports basketball baseball soccer cheerleading kids rec leaguesSo your child has hit the four to eight-year-old range, and you’re thinking it’s about time to sign him up for his first organized sport. But which one? His best friend from school is registering for t-ball, but your offspring plays duck and cover when a ball is thrown in his general direction. You’ve thought about soccer, but a friend from church can’t stop gushing about how much Tae Kwan Do has helped her daughter build confidence.

How is a parent supposed to know which sport would be the best fit for her kiddo? Read on for a breakdown of several sports and what personality types and physical strengths are best suited for each one.

SOCCER is a great starter sport for almost any child. For younger ages, the rules of the game are fairly simple, and there’s no need for advanced hand-eye coordination since a player’s hands can’t be used in this sport. If your child enjoys running and staying in motion, he should get a good amount of playing time. Soccer skills can also be practiced alone or with others.

BASEBALL and its variations (t-ball and softball) are thinking peoples’ games. If your young one enjoys strategizing through what if scenarios, like what to do if the ball is hit to different areas on the field, this is probably a good fit for her. Baseball requires good hand-eye coordination, a developmental skill that is sometimes lacking in younger ages. It’s also helpful if your child can understand the importance of working together as a team but can be given a unique role and accomplish it on her own.

CHEERLEADING is for the child who doesn’t shy away from performing directly in front of others. If your little one is able to follow directions and stay focused for longer stretches and enjoys encouraging others, then cheerleading might be a good sport to try. Being coordinated is also a plus, though early on, cheerleading can actually help develop this skill. Those kids who are sensitive to sensory input might not want to start with this sport where kids are asked to stand next to their peers while they yell and swish pompoms. Even so, if your child enjoys raising her voice and can remember how to do several moves in sequence, cheerleading might be the perfect fit.

FLAG FOOTBALL is designed for the child who likes to throw and catch and doesn’t mind getting bumped around doing it. Even though flag football is designed to eliminate a lot of the danger of regular football, there still ends up being a good amount of falling down in a sport where a group of kids are all trying to get one ball. Flag football also requires a level of patience and self-control that surprises some kids and their parents. A child playing this sport is continually asked to go from a full speed run to pausing to listen for the coach’s explanation of the next play. Working well with others and being a team player are necessary traits for kids playing flag football.

BASKETBALL is a good starter sport for kids who like to be on the move constantly and can keep up with fast changes. If you’re concerned that your child would get easily distracted with a lot of down time, and he has fairly good hand-eye coordination, then basketball might be his sport of choice. It’s also a good sport for kids who enjoy practicing on their own. The bonus for parents is that basketball tends to be pretty inexpensive to play and practice, and it’s a sport that your child is likely to play well into adulthood, whether on teams or with a friend in your driveway.

GYMNASTICS is a great sport for very young children, particularly kids who are willing to try new things with their bodies. If your child enjoys being indoors more than outdoors and likes to compete more against himself than others, gymnastics might be a good fit. Kids who do well in gymnastics like to practice similar moves over and over again and are confident in taking some risks.

MARTIAL ARTS are best suited for those who enjoy the challenge of learning new skills in order to advance to higher levels. Though competition is involved, kids who like to continually challenge themselves and work as individuals will tend to like martial arts. Typically, classes are offered several times a week, so a child who needs to get excess energy out daily and develop a greater ability to focus might do well in martial arts.

The great thing about trying out sports at a young age is that your child can go out for something different the next season regardless of whether or not his first choice is a good fit. Hopefully, this guide will give you some accurate expectations as you and your child explore several sports over time.