Is My Child Playing The Wrong Sport? Three Questions To Consider.
Is my child playing the wrong sport? Three questions to consider. When my oldest was born, like most parents in our area, we couldn’t wait for her to start playing sports and signed her up for soccer as soon as we could. She played AYSO for two years and even tried out for a club team. But something wasn’t right, and the clues were everywhere. Note to self, when you find yourself yelling, “RUN!” constantly from the sidelines, maybe a ‘running’ sport isn’t a great fit. Still, we ignored the signs and spent several years trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Eventually, we tried water polo (to learn what it takes to play water polo, READ HERE), and she quickly fell in love. To this day, she likes to say that she’s ‘not great on land.’
There are more than three sports kids can play
Too often, parents start their kids in soccer, tee-ball, or basketball and fail to explore sports better suited to their child’s natural build, temperament, or physicality level. Of course, having fun and moving their bodies is always a great choice, no matter what the sport. But we hope this gets you thinking about trying other sports.
That being said, sports parents shouldn’t dissuade a child from playing a sport they love. Particularly at younger ages, kids should try all sports. And if they don’t happen to have the ‘typical’ body type for a sport, that doesn’t mean they won’t succeed. There are definitely outliers, but they may have to possess additional skills and practices. Globalsportsmatter.com explored the success of elite-level athletes with a-typical body types for their sport. “Kevink Alshuler, a psychologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Alshuler worked with sports teams and conducted sports-related research on pain, discomfort, and adaptation to extreme physical distress. He believes that athletes with atypical body types who succeed at high levels do so because they have optimized everything else. “For an athlete to perform at their best, if they’re at the highest level especially, they have to have the complete package,” Alschuler said. “They have to have the physical side; they have to have the psychological side. They have to have the skill, the strategy, and the nutrition. All those pieces have to come together.”
The earlier you match a child to a sport, the more likely it will be the wrong sport
David Epstein, the author of the New York Times bestsellers Range, Why Generalists Triumph In A Specialized World and The Sports Gene; Inside The Science Of Extraordinary Athletic Performance, cautions parents not to be so quick to judge what physique their child may end up with until they have fully matured. Epstein shared in an interview with Ilovetowatchyouplay.com that the earlier a child is matched to a sport, the more likely it will be the wrong sport. He went on to say that it’s difficult to know who kids will become athletically until they’ve gone through puberty (how puberty will affect an athlete).
The bottom line is if your kid is having fun and moving their bodies, it’s a win. But if you’re concerned about long-term fit, then it might be a good idea for youth sports parents to consider these three things before choosing a sport for the long haul.
There will be plenty of outliers, but here are some simple guidelines to help you figure it out:
- What is their temperament: Does your child crave physical contact? Are they always tackling their siblings and trying to wrestle Mom and Dad? Or do they avoid hugging like the plague and are crushed if they accidentally step on a bug? Are they shy and like to be alone, or are they social butterflies? Every sport has its own unique variables that play to specific strengths in temperament. The starting point is to ask the question, would they be best on a team or playing an individual sport? Although most parents want their kids to be able to work well with other kids, for some, it’s just not enjoyable. They might like control and find it hard to rely on others for their success and failures. And for some, too much socializing is emotionally and physically draining. These kids might be better-suited long-term for an individual sport like track, swimming, or tennis. But if your child thrives in social settings and loves to be around people, a team sport is probably a better fit. Football, volleyball, baseball, softball, or basketball all create a lot of social opportunities and plenty of time to be hanging out with teammates. And getting a grasp on how much physical contact your kid tolerates is vital as well. Football, soccer, wrestling, hockey, water polo, basketball, and lacrosse – for boys, all involve a high level of physicality. But for those kids who don’t like bodying up on someone, they might want to try volleyball, softball/baseball, field hockey, and lacrosse-for girls. And if your child doesn’t have a competitive spirit, but you want them to get the benefit of sports, they could try martial arts, rock climbing, surfing, or cycling.
- What is their body type: Whether they have stubby arms, the wingspan of a 747 jet, legs that go on forever, or ones shaped more like tree trunks, there is a sport that will play to their strengths. Any body type can play any sport and should, but certain body types will be better suited for long-term success in specific sports. This doesn’t mean there won’t be exceptions to the rule. Typically short and stocky body types will be a good match for certain positions in football and baseball, soccer, gymnastics, and wrestling. Tall and lanky children tend to do better in basketball, volleyball, and long-distance running. Particularly if your child has big dreams of playing in college and beyond, guiding them towards a sport that suits their natural strengths will be beneficial.
- What will work best for your family: If cost is a concern, then stay away from some of the more expensive sports that require a lot of gear, like hockey, lacrosse, and equestrian. Instead, find a sport like basketball or soccer that can be practiced easily at just about any park with very little equipment. If early mornings and 5-6 days per week seem too intense, then scratch most water sports that happen in a pool off the list. Or if your kid gets cold easily, or has serious allergies, then find something indoors like basketball or volleyball. If you want to be able to play together as a family and want a sport they can participate in even when they are much older, sports like golf and tennis are good choices. Read here about one family that has found the perfect balance between their passions and their children’s sports choices.
For an interactive guide to finding the right sport, check out Aspen Institute’s Healthysportindex.com.
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