Nervous about enrolling your child in a sport? Don’t fret … you are not alone! But where do you begin?
Before enrolling your child, there are some things to look for. First, realize that there’s no “best” first sport. There are plenty of sports all kids can enjoy. You’ve heard how Tiger Woods learned golf from his dad at the age of 3, and you’ve seen Serena Williams’ 3-year-old daughter learning tennis. But where should your child start? For many parents, the first sport they’ll sign a child up for will be T-Ball or soccer. But many kids start with basketball or the sport most favored by the parent.
No matter what you choose, put playful learning at the middle of the experience and you’re sure to have a great time.
Your child’s first sport
Many children are introduced to a variety of sports before even learning to read. And while many preschoolers are ready for organized team sports, getting your child started should be about enjoyment.
If your 3- or 4-year-old wants to try T-Ball, scope out a team to watch together and see if it resonates. Or take a look at soccer — it’s an easy first sport because it’s a big ball and easy to start with for kids just developing coordination. First team sports should teach your child about listening, waiting, turn taking, following directions, being physically active, and most importantly, it should encourage your child to have fun!
Coach Brandon Clement, a certified personal trainer and Iron Kids instructor at the Lakota YMCA, recommends making your child’s first sports experience as fun as possible.
“I recommend parents encourage their child to try different sports and let your kid choose what sports they play,” he says.
Giving your child the opportunity to dabble in a few youth sports will help him decide if he likes one over another. Landon, age 10, discovered his passion for soccer with Coach Clement through the Lakota Y’s Tiny Tot Soccer program. Landon says he learned about teamwork as well as how to play different sports. Many local Y’s offer recreational soccer programs for young kids.
“I recommend youth sports for typically developing kids,” says Annie Spinneweber, a physical therapist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “Sports are great for strength, self-confidence and stamina,” she says. “Even for little ones with disabilities who cannot participate in typical youth sports programs.”
If you have a child who can benefit from an adapted program, Cincinnati Children’s is a great place to turn. They offer in-depth special needs’ resources to help you find what you need.
For all kids starting sports, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids play multiple sports and delay specializing until age 15 to avoid injuries and burn out. Starting out, observe your child and steer him accordingly, says Jordan Metzl, M.D., author of The Young Athlete: A Sports Doctor’s Complete Guide for Parents.
Considerations about starting your child in sports:
• Is your child old enough to make a commitment to an entire season?
• Put your child in the sport he wants to try
• Keep all pressure to excel at bay
• Let your child try a variety of sports so he gets a broad range of skills. Don’t narrow it down to one or two sports until your child is much older.
• Seek out nurturing, supportive coaches
• If your child gets along with others and loves to run, try soccer.
• If your child loves to tumble, has good balance and has upper body strength, try gymnastics.
• If your child loves to throw and catch, try T-Ball.
• If your child loves being in the water, try swimming.
• If your child loves to bounce a ball and can toss with good aim, try basketball.
• If your child loves the cold and slidding around, try ice hockey.
• If your child is a rough-houser, try football.
Local Sports For Littles
Bear Paddle Swim; bearpaddle.com; Locations in Cincinnati, Florence and Mason
Goldfish Swim School; goldfishswimschool.com; Locations in West Chester and Anderson
Sports include flag football, soccer, baseball, basketball, ZIP lacrosse and volleyball for ages 3 and older.
Kids First Sports Center; kidsfirstsports.com
Sport options include gymnastics (Baby Bees starts at 6 weeks old with a parent), swimming (8 weeks old), cheer, dance, soccer, soccer, yoga, fencing (age 6), Ninja Class (6 years old) and Taekwondo.
Lakota Sports Organization; lakotasports.org
Sports include baseball, softball, soccer, flag football, volleyball (second grade), and rugby.
YMCA of Greater Cincinnati; myy.org
Youth sports begin at age 3. Basketball, T-Ball, baseball, flag football, soccer, martial arts (age 7), and volleyball (age 8). Tina Pratt is a local mom of two Littles. She is a former PreK-5 special education teacher who now works as a behavior coach.