Sports can be amazing for children. Along with the physical attributes, sports can help increase self confidence, communication and cooperation skills, and lower anxiety. If in the wrong sport, negative affects can occur as well. A question that I am asked sometimes is what sport would be a good fit for my child? Is s/he ready for a team sport? Is it ok to quit a sport and try something new? This article will be based on the emotional/feeling side of an individual and is meant to help brain storming.
Individual Sport or Team Sport for your child??
There are many things to consider when choosing a sport for your child. Your child first and foremost must have a desire to play a sport. There are many sports to choose from. To begin with team vs individual is a big question. Is your child easily distracted? Does your child exhibit extreme anxiety or high frustration in life (s/he may seem to not have triggers and explode spontaneously, cry easily)? If you said yes to any of these, an individual sport is advised to start with and dependant on the child possibly the only type sports s/he ever does. Individual sports allow more one on one attention encouraging focus. Some of those sports involve individuals playing solo but can affect a team. In these sports, children can learn some of the same social lessons that they learn from team sports. A few can also lead to a small team within a team, for instance a relay track team which would be an easier transition to a bigger team sport if that is a desired goal of the childs. The child needs to be able to build their self confidence and lower anxiety prior to playing on a team sport so to be more successful. Being successful individually is one way to help build his/her self confidence. Examples of individual sports: martial arts (*there are many kinds, look into before committing), tennis, climbing, cycling, track, archery, skiing, swimming, gymnastics. Some team sports include lacrosse, soccer, basketball, cheerleading, football, hockey, and softball/baseball.
Which sport specifically do you choose??
Once you have figured out if your child would most likely would be successful in an individual sport or team, the next step is which one exactly. Certain sports require more hand-eye coordination like tennis, basketball and hockey while others require more balance like soccer. Softball/baseball requires a lot of focus to name another. Take into account their body size as well; smaller bodied children may have an easier time in lacrosse vs football where a smaller child may be knocked around easier. A child will have more success in the following sports if s/he already obtains the requirement for the sport so it is worth researching what is needed for that sport prior to making a commitment to your child. It is not to say your child cannot improve in the sport and likely will especially if placed correctly and the right amount of praise and encouragement is given.
Different sports require different time commitments as well. Is your child an introvert, needing more alone time after school to help stay grounded? What is your child’s schedule currently like? Busy or have a lot of time to fill because restless? Some sports meet once a week while others meet 5-6x a week. Also, is your child active in life currnelty so it would not be a big change to be in a physically demanding sport like football?
How can I help my child’s self confidence and success??
So you have it narrowed down and your child is signed up for their sport. How now can you help your child be successful, have fun, and increase their self confidence? With a mix of encouragement and constructive critism. Timing is Huge here. When your child is proud of themselves, let them be proud. After a game, it is not the time for constructive critism. It is the time for praise and encouragement. Examples: Good job! You rocked it! I saw you make that goal, way to go! You should be proud of yourself!
It is hard at times to not say something right away, however, your child will hear you more if you wait. If your child asks you for immediate feedback, let them know how proud you are and that s/he should be proud as well. To give you time to think about it and you can talk later on. Ask them what do they think? They may know the answer and ask for specific help. If help is not asked for but you really want to help them, a few days later when practicing, work into the play what s/he needs help with. If focus is a concern, there are exercises that can help learn this skill. And it will not necessarily involve the field or court.
Sports can truly build up a child and enhance their life, however, if not chosen wisely a sport can hinder a child as well. If a child makes a commitment to a team and then wants to quit mid-season, have your child at least sit on the bench so to support the team for that season. Explore with your child why the desire to quit if at end of the season and not wanting to go back. Is it something that can be worked on like dexterity or coordination? Or are they wanting to try something new and explore their happiness within something else? Just like as an adult, an individual discovers their passions in experiencing. Let’s help them to have amazing experiences.