By Brandon Capaletti
With summer now here, many parents’ thoughts are changing from school and spelling tests toward soccer games and T-ball practice. If you are looking to enroll your child in a sport, here are some important considerations to help you choose the right sport, team and coach.
Choosing the Right Sport
The first step in choosing a sports team is choosing the sport itself. Some considerations to make include:
- Your child’s interest, temperament and physical abilities
- Your schedule
- The cost of equipment and participation
As you look at these basic factors, strive to find a sport that balances your child’s abilities, goals and needs, as well as the needs of your family. Often, parents will choose a sport based on their child’s interests and physical capabilities, and this is a great way to introduce a child to athletic events. Just make sure to consider other factors, like cost. Some sports, such as football, come with a significant cost because of the gear required. Volleyball, track and field, and swimming or diving are some of the cheapest sports, with football, baseball and hockey topping out the list of expensive sports. Parents pay an average of $671 per year on the fees, equipment and other costs of youth sports.
Another consideration to make is whether your child is best suited for a team sport or an individual sport. Team sports teach children the value of teamwork and encourage them to work with others to reach a particular goal. Individual sports, like gymnastics or swimming, may be better for children who are driven to push themselves or who have a hard time with the winning and losing aspect of sports. With individual sports, however, the social benefit of playing sports is diminished, as is some of the learning to work as a team.
Choosing the Right Team
Once you’ve chosen a sport, the next consideration you must make is the type of team you want your child to be on. Youth sports leagues fall into two basic categories: competitive vs. recreational. Both provide benefits and drawbacks for you to consider before enrolling your child.
A recreational team is playing for the experience and the fun. This is the team that will teach the basics of the game and give your child a general understanding of the competitive nature of sports. The emphasis will be less on winning and more on learning in a recreational team.
A competitive team is looking for highly skilled players with the goal of winning the competition for the year. This is ideal for a player who is a bit more skilled in the sport and loves the competitive nature of the game. With a competitive team, you will have more practices, more games and the option to travel if the team excels. The schedule may not be very flexible. KJ Dell’Antonia of the New York Times’ Motherlode blog warns that this intensity can be hard for some children, but some will thrive on it.
With both types, you need to watch for the potential drawbacks. If you eventually want your child to be the best at a sport, there is a limit to the amount of training provided by a recreational team. If you choose a competitive team, make sure that the game stays fun. Regardless of how skilled your child is, sports should still be enjoyable.
Choosing the Right Coach
For your child to have a great first experience in a sport, see if you have an option to choose the team based on the coach. Learn what the coach’s emphasis is, and choose a coach who has goals similar to yours.
For example, some coaches are set on winning at all costs. While this might be the right approach for a competitive team, it will frustrate a child who is just learning a game for the first time and can rob the game of its fun. On the other hand, some coaches are all about having fun. This style will ensure that your child enjoys the experience, but it may not teach enough about the skills of the game or the competitive nature of sports.
If you have several coaches to choose from, look for one with a balanced approach. This will help your child gain the most from the experience while also preventing frustration.
As you consider your options, remember this final thought: what is right for everyone may not be what is right for your family and your child. Make the decision that best suits you all, and enjoy the benefits of youth sports for your family.
Brandon Capaletti is the Vice President of Cisco Inc., a Maryland-based athletic apparel manufacturer that designs, produces and distributes custom uniforms for 18 different sports including basketball, soccer, and baseball.