Do I start them skating at age 4? how about Saturday morning T-Ball? Like many parents,my wife Shannon and I enrolled our children Andrew and Olivia in their first teams ...before they got to first grade. We winced, as 5 year old Andrew, (who is now a high school hockey goalie) ran around a soccer field with a sideline cone on his head. We got up on early spring Saturdays to take Olivia (now a travel soccer foward) to her first soccer clinics. After the first one, she said she was done...for good.
In most communities, sports is a huge factor for kids. I think it can be more fun, if a parent acts as a child's agent...minus the sneaker endorsements and car commercials. It has more to do with picking the right teams and right situations. Here's my tips:
A LITTLE SPRING TRAINING
Before your children start any sports team or even a clinic, get them familiar with the game. Don't just kick the soccer ball around, but show them how you run down the field to score. You don't have to overload them with details, but a basic understanding will go a long way the first time they try to play in a supervised enviroment with other kids. It's hard to teach 5 year olds the rules when they're chasing a ball with 8 other players for the first time as two dozen parents cheer a few feet away from them.
SIGN THAT CONTRACT
They don't actually have to sign anything, but I would suggest not letting your children quit a league or set of lessons until it ends. We found Andrew and Olivia would get discouraged if they had a bad game and never want to return. We always tried to encourage them to get back in the game because sports has big ups and downs..and a homerun makes you forget a strikeout pretty quickly.
EYES ON...THE COACH
I've found the adults who give up their time to coach younger kids are usually pretty great people. Still, it's only natural some tend to gravitate to the better players on their squad. If you watch the game and the practices, make sure your child isn't left out because they're not a superstar. Everyone should get to play in a good part of the game ...no exceptions.
DON'T PASS TO SABRINA
Kids understand very quickly who the best players are on their team. That can be intimidating. It's tough not being a "starter". It can hurt a kid's confidence, and their feelings. But nobody's athletic career is set in stone at age 7 or 8. So, tell your child they have as much right as anyone to take that shot or ask to quarterback their team.
FINALLY, PLAY DOWN?
There's always a lot of pressure to put kids in "travel" teams. If you're lucky enough though to have a good "rec" league in your community, think of that as a good option. Often times, it's more relaxed way kids can find out if they enjoy a sport..and if they do, it's easier to shine. Sure, the travel teams get better uniforms, but I think kids would rather get in the game than sit on the bench.
That's my tips. I do want to stress, both our children love sports and have benefited so much from playing them. I think your kids will too..just be a god agent and set them up for fun on the field!