Baseball, football, soccer, basketball, rugby, track and field, hockey, volleyball — there are lots of choices available for youth wishing to participate in organized sports, so which do you decide on? There are a lot of factors involved in picking the “right” sport for your child and the preliminary work begins at home. 

Is Your Child Interested in Playing a Team Sport?

The first question you need to ask yourself is, “Does my child really wish to participate in sports?” This involves a frank and open discussion with your children. Are they truly interested in participating? Although there are many benefits from playing in an organized environment, team sports are not necessary for everyone. 

When participating in team sports, children learn discipline, punctuality, commitment to peers, how to work with others, and good nutrition and healthy habits, but the same can be said about individual player sports and many non-athletic activities, such as theater and band.

Consider the Following Factors as a Family:

Cost: Gear for some sports can run over hundreds of dollars. Can the family afford it? Is it pay to play?
Transportation: Will there always be someone to drive the child to practice and games?
Sunday games: If games are played on Sunday, how strict is your church in relation to keeping the Lord’s Day holy?
Health: Is your child in good enough shape for the activity? Has he or she had a recent complete medical exam including heart and lung function?

Choose a Sport Based on Your Child’s Interests

If after having these discussions you and your child come to the conclusion that team sports is for them, then come to a decision with your child on a sport you both feel he or she will find enjoyable. Start with observation: What does your child do for fun? 

Is he full of energy or does she love to run around with friends? Then cross country or field sports may be a good choice. Does your child love spending the afternoon playing catch? These are skills important to baseball, football and basketball. Does she love tumbling around and cheering others on? Gymnastics, dance or cheerleading may be a good fit.

Those who love being in the water may be natural swimmers while those who prefer to be gliding above it might enjoy hockey or participating on a figure skating team. Those with exceptional eye-hand (or foot) coordination would do well at la crosse, volleyball or soccer. 

Check Out Local Teams and Coaches

Once you have satisfactorily answered these questions, it is time to check out the local teams. While most schools have athletic programs, you need not feel obligated to join them, especially if your children are home schooled. 

The first thing you need to do is interview the coach. If they are unwilling to be interviewed, then move on. Find out their philosophy on sports. Are they there to nurture or strictly to win at all cost? Do they use all of the team members or just the ones that guarantee a win? Are they a good moral example in the community? 

If you feel that the coach will set a good example for your children, take time to attend a game or practice before deciding. What is the coach’s reaction when someone makes a mistake? What is the spirit of the team? Do they support each other even when they lose? 

Parents: Learn to Be Good Sports

You make your decision on a sport and team … now what? This is where the real work begins. You are now committed to support your child in their participation. This includes seeing that schedules are kept, healthy food is provided and good health practices are followed.

Go for a walk together, play catch, shoot some hoops or help your child practice sports skills at home. This will be of benefit to both of you. Before every game pray as a family for safe transport to and from the game as well as a safe game for everyone involved.

While you may not be able to attend every game, take an interest in your children’s participation. Cheer them on when they win and console them when they lose. Another trap to avoid is getting too wrapped up in the game or season (especially playoffs and championships). 

One of the biggest temptations in raising children is parents living vicariously through their children’s accomplishments. As parents, we are here to raise our children with love and to encourage them to succeed and to comfort them when they fall. Let us not forget the real purpose of athletics is to improve our children physically, mentally and spiritually so that they grow up to be well-rounded adults.

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