Playing team sports can be one of the most enjoyable parts of growing up. You may remember yourself running around, smiling, laughing, getting active, feeling excited before every practice session or game day. Not only that, but the benefits of encouraging your child into a sport can also make a huge positive impact on the rest of their life. These include physical (improved health and fitness), emotional (more confidence, happiness and improved behaviour), and social (meeting friends, improving communication skills and learning teamwork and responsibility) benefits. That’s why it is important to give your child every opportunity to become part of a team sport. Often it’s just for a bit of fun and exercise. However, other times your child may have a natural talent and level of dedication that can see them make a career or enjoy a lifelong hobby with the sports they start in their developmental years. In this article we’ll look at how to encourage your child to play sports! And also some of the key things to look out for! To ensure that sport remains and enjoyable and rewarding activity for your child, and not a burden or negative experience.
The most important part about playing sport as a child is having fun. Yes you want them to be successful and improve their skills, but always first and foremost the focus must be (and remain) on fun. Finding a sport that you child has a natural interest in is the best way to help facilitate this. Find out what sports they play at school? What sports do they like watching on TV? What sports do their friends play or talk about the most? Even if you were a highly skilled soccer player it doesn’t automatically mean that is the sport your child wants to play. Yes, you can encourage them into the sport you love so you can share that together. However, ultimately the final decision must be the child’s. Read our article on how to choose the right sport for your child for more tips and advice
There’s every chance that after trying a sport for a few sessions that your child may lose interest or not be having fun. The best solution for this is to try many different sports before committing to one or two. School Holiday Sports Programs are a great way to do this as they offer a range of sports where you child can participate in a 3 or 4 day trial without needing to register for an entire season or purchase all the equipment. Australian Sports Camps are a national company that run 3-day sports programs for kids aged 6-16. These camps are for all skill levels! And let kids try a sport without the extra pressure or commitment often found in specialised sports teams.
A huge factor when choosing a sport is ensuring that your child is matched with other kids of their same age and ability. You want your child to be able to actively participate and feel that they are involved. This can sometimes be hard to do at first with some organised sporting clubs. Which is why holiday programs can be a great way to get a feel for your child’s ability level relative to the other kids.
When your child has found a sport they’re interested in, it’s ideal if you also have a basic understanding of the game and show an active interest. Learn the rules, try to gain a basic skill level, so you can practice together and maybe even take your child to some professional games if they’re interested. It’s also VERY important that you don’t become too over-enthusiastic. We’ve all seen those parents on the sidelines screaming and yelling at the referees, coaches and even the kids. This is a sure-fire way to strip any enjoyment out of the activity for your child. It’s important to gauge how involved your child wants you to be and as mentioned earlier, always keep the focus on fun and consistently improving your child’s performance. Don’t measure them against the “best players” or try to live out your sports dreams through them.
When talking to your child about the game or practise session they just had, always focus on the things they did right. How did they improve from last time? How did they contribute? What other positive experiences were there to be taken from the game? It’s not always about winning or being the best so don’t berate your child for making a mistake. Let them learn from their mistakes and help them to improve next time with constructive feedback.
A great way to look at your child’s sporting endeavours is to think about it similar to their study of maths. You want to be there to offer assistance and help them improve. But you wouldn’t get overly involved or start screaming if they didn’t know their times tables. The overall message of this article is to be supportive but not demanding. You want to encourage your children to enjoy activity and start a habit of exercise and being healthy that will stay with them through to adulthood. With team sports being proven to develop humility, sportsmanship, leadership and discipline finding a sport that your child enjoys is something that every parent should be actively pursuing.