With the increasing time commitment and rising costs of organized sports, along with the competitiveness and pressure that often comes with them, many parents feel pressure to choose the “right” one for their child. Questions like “Will my child think it’s fun?” “Will they learn the importance of discipline and teamwork?” “Will it be worth the financial costs?” and even “Is there potential for a college scholarship?” may enter your mind. While the answers will be different for every family, we’ve compiled some tips to help you think through what may be right for you and your child.

– Ask your child. Find out what interests them and why. And remember that even an answer like “I want to play soccer because my friend does” may be reason enough to choose that sport for now.

– Allow them to try out many different sports without the pressure to choose just one. This doesn’t mean that they need to be playing four sports at one time, but rather that it may take experiencing several different sports before they find the one that is best for their body type, personality and interests.

– Don’t push too hard. While some kids may just be nervous about trying something new and need your encouragement to join, others may not be ready for an organized sport and pushing them into something too early will only bring about resentment and frustration for both you and them.

– Provide other outlets for play. Kids naturally gather into “teams” for play when they are together, so even if your child isn’t ready for an organized sport yet, make sure that they have plenty of opportunities to join in non-organized play with other kids their age.

– Don’t forget about non-team sports. While teamwork is certainly something your kids need to learn, not all kids thrive on a team and you may find that sports like swimming, biking, diving, running, wrestling, gymnastics, tennis, track and martial arts provide them with a social environment without actually being a team sport.

– Think through what your child might gain out of each sport. For example, instead of dreaming about how your child might end up in the major leagues, think about how he or she would gain hand-eye coordination, discipline and teamwork experience from joining a baseball or softball team.

– Follow their lead. If parents are the ones doing all the choosing and pushing, kids will burn out easily. Some elementary-aged kids will be interested in doing summer camps and clinics year-round for a sport whereas others may just want to play socially and stay non-commital to one sport in particular. Make sure you pay attention to where your child falls in this spectrum.

Have you had success in helping your child choose a particular sport in which to be involved? What did you learn through that process?

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