Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Case For Active Kids: Why Sports for Kids?

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The obesity epidemic is rampant.  More than half of the population is overweight, one in three is considered obese and it is projected to get worse.  The next generation of children is not expected to outlive their parents.  It is time for a change and that change needs to start now.

Participating in sports can have a healthy developmental impact on young children by:

  • Giving them something to do and a group to belong to that shares the same goals and interests.
  • Promoting cooperative play, teamwork, and good sportsmanship by focusing on the team as a whole as opposed to the egocentric view children often have.
  • Developing coordination by practicing both gross and fine motor skills, strategic thinking when coordinating plays and math skills to calculate scores and stats.
  • Building self-esteem through the practice, patience and persistence of mastering a skill and making significant achievements.
  • Developing discipline and leadership skills by setting goals and working hard to achieve them.
  • Helping children develop communication skills that will enable them to get along with others including peers, family members, teachers and coaches.
  • Instill a lifelong love of physical activity by establishing a correlation between sports and activity with fun.

Outcomes of Active Kids:

Physical activity is one of the most impactful and inexpensive ways to improve health, reduce obesity rates, and relieve stress and depression.

Make the experience positive to retain your athlete:

  • Pick a sport or activity that will appeal to the child.  Team sports can be a good fit for outgoing, more aggressive personalities whereas other children may prefer individual endeavors and working hard to beat a personal best.  If it isn’t enjoyable, try something else.
  • Set realistic goals and a plan for how those goals will be achieved.
  • Choose leagues, coaches and teams that align with the outcomes you desire.   For example: non-competitive and recreational leagues will focus more time on skill building and having fun, whereas traveling and competitive teams will tend to focus more on winning games.
  • Separate the parent’s dreams and expectations from the child’s dreams and expectations.

The Case For Active Kids: Pick the Right Sport For Your Child

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There are many more options available today for kids in sports than ever before, making it easy to find a sport or activity that will appeal to almost any one.  The key is to find a sport or activity that your child will enjoy and can be successful in.

A few things to consider when looking for an activity for your child:

The child’s temperament –   High energy kids will likely do better with sports that include fast moves with a lot of action. Think hockey, lacrosse and soccer.   More low-key children may enjoy a slower paced activity that involves a strategy or more attention to details.  Think baseball, wrestling, dance and gymnastics.   Introverts may be more drawn to individualized sports where they compete with themselves for a personal best instead of against others.  Think swimming, golf or martial arts. Non-competitive kids may not want to participate in team sports at all, but may enjoy a long bike ride on a trail with the family or a hike through the woods with the dog.  Whatever their fitness personality, all kids can be physically fit.  As parents, it is our responsibility to work with our child to find a sport or activity that they will enjoy and be successful with.

Give them a chance to shine- With the right encouragement a quiet, shy girl may light it up Mia Hamm style on the soccer field.  A nudge in the right direction may uncover some previously untapped competitive spirit.  In other words: let them try it, they might like it.

Let them choose what sounds appealing to them – Physical activity shouldn’t be optional, but how they choose to be active should be up to them.  Giving the child a choice in what they participate in will make them more invested in following through with the practice.  This can be a challenge for parents if they played a particular sport and the child doesn’t share their passion.  A family of hockey players may not know much about dancing, but it is important to show your support no matter what activity they choose.

Make sure they are having fun – This will be the key for them to stick with any sport or activity.  If the practices are a chore and the child complains or doesn’t want to go, it’s time to consider a change.  Ask why they aren’t enjoying themselves, what would make it more appealing to them and adjust accordingly.

Don’t be afraid to re-visit the past – Don’t exclude an activity due to a bad experience.  A child that hated swimming lessons as a toddler may later come to enjoy the individual nature of competitive swimming.   A change of environment, a different coaching strategy or having a friend on the team can make all the difference.

Set them up for success – If a child has never done something before, they will be apprehensive and self-conscious about trying something new.  No one wants to look incompetent or foolish in front of their peers.  So before starting a new sport or activity, talk with them about some of the basics of the game,  explain what they can expect to happen at practice, make sure they have the appropriate gear they need to play.  If they are still apprehensive,  make the coach aware of any concerns they may have before they start.

The bottom line –If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.   Don’t be discouraged if you try one or two sports and decide they aren’t a good fit.  With so many options available your child is sure to find something that is a good fit for them.