Kids love to move. They love to jump and climb and tumble and, as their coordination improves, to throw and catch.
But when does it stop being fun? For some kids, it’s when pressure from school or parents starts to make sports feel like work. For others, it’s when fixation on a single sport takes the joy and spontaneity out of it. Encouraging your child to try new sports can be a great way to remind them that sports are all about one thing…fun!
New sports provide new opportunities
Playing only one sport can make a young athlete’s world extremely narrow. It can limit opportunities for making new friends, and when the focus is on competition, the stress of winning and losing can put established friendships to the test.
However, when young athletes try several sports, they get to meet new people. That one sport doesn’t become so stressful, which therefore makes young athletes more likely to succeed. And, more importantly, they’re more likely to succeed socially.
New sports provide strength and flexibility
Parents are often warned that they should be cautious about the extent of physical challenges their children take on. It’s true. Repeatedly performing the same athletic tasks in the same sports can do lasting damage to a growing body. Furthermore, repeating the same action over and over can actually build some parts of the body out of proportion to others, which means that strength and flexibility don’t provide as much transferable advantage as they could.
Engaging with several sports, however, allows your young athlete to practice different movements. As a result, your child will become stronger, more flexible, and fitter, preparing them for adult life.
New sports build confidence
Young athletes are often uncertain about trying new sports because they can be tough to master. This, however, is part of what makes sports valuable.
It’s good for children to face challenges and learn that they can overcome them, and it’s valuable for them to feel supported by their parents in doing so. Maisie Lynton grew up playing soccer, swimming and doing cross-country running, which not only gave her a great range of skills but helped to build up her confidence. She’s gone on to become a pilot, combining her love for taking on challenges with her scholarly interest in physics.
New sports help young athletes get involved
If you really want your child to give a new sport a try, there’s nothing like letting them see you enjoying it yourself.
…But maybe only when they’re young. Before they’re embarrassed by the idea of doing what their parents do.
Pro tip: make sure it’s not an extension of your own youth sports career or your unrealized ambitions, and don’t assume your kids will enjoy the same sports as you. When they choose sports they’re interested in—whether they’re sports you’ve shown them or ones they’ve seen elsewhere—go along to watch them play. Be interested, even if you weren’t to begin with. Don’t crowd or pressure them. Let them tell you what they need from you. Show them it can be fun!
New sports help keep the balance
Even while you encourage your child to enjoy different sports, it’s important not to overwhelm them. Just as different sports complement each other, they should be balanced by other aspects of life, from schoolwork to hanging out with friends. Make sure the focus is not on winning but on improving skills. Because no one wins all the time, but everyone can improve.