Growing up, my husband and I dabbled in different activities. We played soccer, basketball, baseball, and kickball; did ballet, took art classes, did gymnastics, played tennis, and were on swim teams in the summers. We didn’t choose one sport to focus on year round. We tried a little bit of everything and had fun doing it all with no serious expectations.
It was not until middle school that we each chose a few sports to focus on. I finally ended up only focusing on basketball during high school, but I never really played it on a team before middle school. I really enjoyed the sport and never felt burnt out. My husband focused on tennis and was a superstar…he may or may not be sitting next to me as I write this. 😉
Fast forward 20+ years and things in my young family are not so different. We have my two older children trying all sorts of various activities just like I did. They have tried basketball, baseball, TeamPlayball, gymnastics, ballet, golf, soccer, swim team, rock climbing, among other things, and they are just four and five-years-old.
We do not do too many things at once; one, maybe two activities at a time. And they enjoy it. They like trying new things, and we enjoy seeing them try all sorts of different activities, as well as gaining more confidence within each sport. None of our leagues have been particularly competitive. They have been more about the introduction of the game and just having fun.
Recently, though, I started to notice something. A lot of children the same age as mine were doing the same sports year round. We have friends and family on all-star baseball teams and travelling soccer teams. They seem to be very competitive with the kids developing impressive athletic skills.
It really got me thinking–have I dropped the ball on sports already? Am I too late getting my kids to pick a particular sport to focus on and work on year round? They are so young, how could they possibly choose one sport? By the end of each season, that sport becomes my son’s new favorite, so how is he to choose just one or two? Am I picking for them what I want them to excel in? Could focusing on one sport too early lead to injury or being burnt out by the time they reach high school?
I started to fret about this, so I talked to Teresa Starks of TeamPlayball. Her thoughts on the subject matter were…
Before age 5, I feel that sports should be about exploring and learning the fundamentals in a fun setting. As far as introducing them to a competitive league, you really have to know your child and if they are emotionally ready for the pressure that a competitive sports setting brings. Towards age 7, I feel that children should start to focus and put their energy into the sport or sports they are most interested in and seem to excel the most in. This also seems like a good age to introduce the child to a league setting.
Phew! I still have some time. Ultimately, as she says, you have to know your child. Some children are ready to start focusing on competitive sports earlier than others. I also think it is a family decision. Maybe certain sports you think your child both enjoys and has a natural talent for can be nurtured at an earlier age. Maybe your child’s personality is more about keeping things in a fun, less competitive environment.
In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with either. For us, we feel that it is all about exposure to different sports and having fun. We want them to learn athletic skills, but also life skills: the importance of practice, hard work, being part of a team, self-confidence and developing healthy exercise habits.
But let’s be honest, the chances of any of my children playing professional sports today are slim to none. Or maybe they will one day go to the Olympics, come across this blog post and say “Haha, I proved you wrong!” At worst, they will have the skill set to excel in the modern world.