Like so many other kids, my youngest started in soccer. Despite her early and apparent aversion to physical contact, she kept playing. She was skilled and fast and seemed to enjoy it. Even though I loved watching that blonde ponytail bob up and down the field, there was a part of me that knew early on that she wasn’t in it for the long haul. We pushed those feelings aside and spent several years trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Eventually, she tried volleyball, and it was like a fish in water; it was a natural fit. Too often, parents start their kids in soccer, tee-ball or basketball, and fail to explore sports better suited to their child’s natural build, temperament, or physicality level. Of course, playing any sport is a win! You can’t go wrong with having fun and moving your bodies. But if your child is unhappy in their sport, maybe it’s time to look elsewhere.
There will be plenty of outliers, but here are some simple guidelines to help you figure it out.
Guidelines To Picking A Sport
What Is Your Child’s Temperament?
Does your child crave physical contact? Are they always tackling their siblings and wrestling mom and dad? Or do they avoid hugging like the plague and are crushed if they accidentally step on a bug? Are they shy and like to be alone, or are they social butterflies?
Every sport has its unique variables that play to specific strengths in temperament. The starting point is to ask the question, would they be best on a team or playing an individual sport? Although most parents want their kids to work well with other kids, it’s just not enjoyable for some. They might like control and find it hard to rely on others for their success and failures. And for some, too much socializing is emotionally and physically draining. These kids might be better suited long term for an individual sport like track, swim, or tennis. But if your child thrives in social settings and loves to be around people, a team sport is probably a better fit. Football, volleyball, baseball, softball, or basketball all create many social opportunities and plenty of time to be hanging out with teammates.
Getting a grasp on how much physical contact your kid tolerates is vital as well. Football, soccer, wrestling, hockey, water polo, basketball, and lacrosse – for boys, all involve a high level of physicality. But for those kids who don’t like bodying up on someone, they might want to try volleyball, softball/baseball, field hockey, and lacrosse-for girls. And if your child doesn’t have a competitive spirit, but you want them to get the benefit of sports, they could try martial arts, rock climbing, surfing, or cycling.
What Is Your Child’s Body Type?
Whether they have stubby arms, the wingspan of a 747 jet, legs that go on forever, or ones shaped more like tree trunks. There is a sport that will play to their strengths. Any body type can play any sport and should, but certain body types will be better suited for long-term success in specific sports. This doesn’t mean there won’t be exceptions to the rule.
Typically short and stocky body types will be a good match for specific positions in football and baseball, soccer, gymnastics, and wrestling. Tall and lanky children tend to do better in basketball, volleyball, and long-distance running. Particularly, guiding them towards a sport that suits their natural strengths will be beneficial if your child has big dreams of playing in college and beyond.
What Will Work Best For Your Family?
If cost is a concern, then stay away from some of the more expensive sports that require a lot of gear, like hockey, lacrosse, and equestrian. Instead, find a sport like basketball or a soccer that can be practiced easily at just about any park with very little equipment.
If early mornings and 5-6 days per week seem too intense, then scratch most water sports that happen in a pool off the list. Or if your kid gets cold quickly, or has severe allergies, then find something indoors like basketball or volleyball. If you want to play together as a family and want a sport they can do even when they are much older, sports like golf and tennis are good choices. Please read here about one family that has found the perfect balance between their passions and their children’s sports choices.
Fun should always be the priority, and anything that has kids moving their bodies is a positive! But we hope this guide gives you some food for thought when you are thinking about choosing a sport.
Read More: Five Reasons Girls Should Try Ice Hockey
For an interactive guide to finding the right sport, check out Aspen Institute’s Healthysportindex.com.