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Our three kids are very involved in competitive sports. But, how did they get there? Where did we start? What are some things you should consider when getting your child involved in sports?
All that we initially required of them was to do was something active. Even now, we don’t require them to compete. They have made the choice to do that. We just asked that they do something physical. Really, any sport or activity they were interested in. So, here’s some advice and a few things that this non-expert, but trying really hard mom thinks might help when you start getting your child involved in sports.
Read why sports teach kids important values here.
Try all kinds of things!
Our daughter Maizy earned her black belt at age 11. However, after she did, she knew she was finished with Tae Kwon Do. At least for now. So, what to do next? She decided to try horse back riding. We bought her the gear; helmet, jodhpurs, boots, gloves. (Hindsight, maybe borrowing the gear would’ve been a better (aka less expensive) idea, until we knew she really was committed. She did look so cute though!) She took riding lessons, but the love of horses just wasn’t there. It was a fun way to spend an afternoon, but her heart wasn’t in it for more than a few months.
Next we went to volleyball. She had fun and she learned some great skills. I love volleyball. It was my favorite sport to play. I really wanted her to love it. But, sadly, she didn’t love it! On to the next thing!
She started swimming about a year ago and after the first few weeks, you could tell it was different. She loved going. When she finished practice, she was excited to talk about what she’d done. She had found HER sport! She knew it and so did we! But, we’d had to try a lot of different things to get to the sport that she really loves!
Oh! I almost forget! When she was about 8, she tried cheerleading for Weston’s football team. To put it mildly, she did not like it, but she did finish out the season and she made some friends! I got some really cute pictures, too. (Insert evil mom laugh here!)
They may be slow to warm up to a sport.
It’s hard to do something you aren’t good at. And, even the most athletically gifted kids aren’t normally good at a sport the first time they play. Or even their second time. But I suggest that once you sign up and they start playing, you make them complete a whole season or a set amount of time (maybe three months) before you let them move on to something else. This will give them time to learn the rules, make improvements to their ability, get to know the coach and other players. All of these things will make the sport more fun. By the end of the season or time period they (and you) will know if this is something they want to continue doing. If not, its okay. They tried something new, probably had some fun and maybe even learned a little about finishing what they started!
Don’t start your kids in a super competitive level initially.
We didn’t start our kids at a high level of sports. They worked their way up to it. We started with recreational level sports and as their commitment, love for the sport and ability increased, so did their level. So, now we find ourselves with three kids doing some pretty serious competitive sports.
My daughter Madeline changed gyms last year. She went from a gym that we thought was pretty good but when we switched, we realized that this new gym was much more serious and the coaches had significantly higher expectations. Now, I have had some serious irritation and regret about not switching to a different gym a long time ago. Kicking myself and wondering how much higher her skill level would be had we made the change earlier. But, my wise 13 year old said something that made me realize a very valid point. She said that if we had switched gyms earlier, she may not have been ready for that level of commitment at that time and it may have caused her to quit. Wow! Wisdom! Which leads me to my next point.
Maybe, let them try an activity more than once. Timing is important!
Maizy and Madeline both did gymnastics at a young age. After a session or two of rec level they were both moved up to a longer class. They were not ready for this level of commitment. It was only two days a week but the time increased to an hour and a half. Also, they did not like that the coaches pushed them down when they were doing the splits. They were too young and didn’t really want anything more than to have some fun. They ended up quitting.
A few years later, Madeline decided she really wanted to go back to the gym. They did an evaluation and put her on a competitive team within a few months. The rest is history! And, now she loves it! It’s her sport! If we hadn’t let her go back to gymnastics and try it again, we never would have known!
As I’ve said before, I think sports and the lessons kids learn from them are invaluable! If your child verbalizes an interest in archery or basketball, do some investigating to see what’s available in your community. Check out the local YMCA or talk to other parents. Get your child involved. Help them be more active. Encourage them to try anything and everything they think might be cool or fun!
You will watch them experience so many different things and grow in more ways than you can count. One day you’ll notice that their eyes light up when they talk about a certain activity and you’ll realize, through all the trial and error and experimentation that they have found their sport. They’ll love it and you’ll love getting to watch them! And, get the tissue ready and prepare to have sore hands from clapping because you’ll be SO proud! -Jill