One of my parenting rules is that my kids will participate in a team sport. I don't mind what sport it is, whatever sport they decide to play as long as they enjoy it. My daughter has participated in a variety of sports from softball, cheer leading, touch football and netball. And my son has played AFL, soccer, T-Ball and this year he decided to play basketball. My youngest is in her first season of playing netball and loving it.
Coming from a sporting background myself I know that sport can teach kids some invaluable life lessons. I think a good age to get them into competitive team sport is around the age of 6-7 but all kids are different. And I also believe in kids should be exposed to a variety of sports as it helps with their overall physical development.
Here's my Top 5 -
Healthy Mind & Healthy Body
Getting kids into sports and physical activity at a young age, sets a good foundation as they get older. It’s creating healthy lifestyle habits that will be carried into their adult life. You have to remember that as kids grow they need the exercise to foster good physical growth. Muscle growth, joint mobility, maintaining a healthy weight and bone density. When we exercise we create endorphins (feel good hormone). So exercise for kids mean that they get their healthy dose of ‘Happy Hormones’. Keeping them active will help create balance in their day. And of course physical exercise helps with the brain development in a child. All those little things we take for granted like learning to throw, catch, kick a ball. All of those movement patterns are quite unique and serve a purpose in the development of a child's brain. Which is why it’s really important that kids get exposure to a variety of activities and sports.
They Learn ‘Team Work’
Let’s face it all kids can be quite selfish and self-absorbed. A toddler’s world is all about them, so as they grow it’s important that they learn the concept of ‘Team’ and all the necessary life skills that brings. They learn very important negotiation skills. They have to learn to share and take turns. They learn commitment and that the team is greater than the individual. When my eldest daughter started playing softball I remember a weekend when she said she just didn’t want to go. She wasn’t sick, she just decided for whatever reason that she didn’t want to go this day. Well I made her go! She went, she wasn’t happy with me, and she refused to play initially and then she forgot why she was mad. LOL. They learn how to work together as group in order to achieve a set goal. And they learn how to follow rules and take instruction.
It helps Build Confidence
When kids learn new skills and feel a sense of accomplishment, this builds self esteem. Starting something new and feeling inclusive also helps with building their confidence. Remember they are not hitting home runs or doing slam dunks. The smallest of achievements have the greatest impacts on kids. It's why as parents we need to celebrate these small wins with them. Watching my daughter play netball over the season re-enforces that notion. Her confidence has built throughout the season to a point now where she is really embracing the game and the competitiveness. Her skill level over the months has improved out of site and she has a greater understanding of the game. And it's not hard to tell she is enjoying it by the big smile on her face.
They Build Resilience
Things don’t always go well for kids when they play sport and more often than not they will fail more times than they will succeed. And this is a really important life skill to learn. We all learn from our mistakes and when something doesn’t work the first time we just keep trying or find a solution or better way to make it work. Kids can get really frustrated by the fact that they can’t do something straight away. And as parents it’s not up to us to find the solution for them, but rather guide, support and encourage them. Younger kids will be intrinsically motivated to keep at it as it’s brings pleasure and joy, and then the older they get they will be extrinsically motivated by the reward of winning, trophies or making a representative team. Either way it teaches them the skill of persistence and adaptation.
Team Sports are so much fun. Team sports is all about ‘having fun with your mates’. Seeing my kids play sport, running around with a big smile on their face brings absolute joy to me. Watching the team chants and the high fives. My daughter has played her first season of netball this year and what fun she has. And because it is so much fun she is driven to improve her skill and practice at home. I remember many a weekend spent at sports fields, road trips for tournaments, the fundraising events, team BBQ’s and end of season break up parties.
So if you haven't got your child into a team sport yet, there is no better time to start and don't worry if you think they are not skilled enough or don't understand the game. It's all about learning and some kids will naturally be better at sports than others. We are all different and its all about having the opportunity to learn in a protected environment. And as parents just be patient and let them enjoy it and learn at their own pace. If they desire to practice more at home then that's great. And remember they are not playing for an Olympic medal, they are just kids. Let them be kids, let them make mistakes, and be sure to acknowledge their accomplishments however big or small.