Choosing the right sport for your child

(WTNH) — Students who want to take part in a after-school activities, especially sports, have all kinds of options. For parents, a sport means investing time and money, so it’s important to think about a number of things when choosing a sport to play.

Experts say a child’s development is a big factor. For very young athletes, soccer may be a good choice.

“Rules are simple,” said Dr. Anthony Rao. “It’s all lower-body, gross motor movements that are easy for them to pick up, and there seems to be a lot less tension in those type of activities.”

The pediatric psychologist at Boston Children’s Hospital adds to consider the youngster’s temperament when picking which sport to play.

“The active, aggressive, assertive kind of kid, risk taker, likes a lot of activity, probably better suited for a lot of the team type sports,” Dr. Rao said. “But a quieter, more shy kind of kid that likes to do things over and over, practice more on their own or more solitary, more individual sports that involve running, swimming, things like that, might be better.”

He says parents being too involved isn’t good, putting more pressure on the athlete to perform. Be prepared if a child wants to switch sports, which generally happens around the middle school years.

“A lot of the best athletes in their particular sports didn’t even try those sports until they reached high school when their bodies, their brains, and a lot of their social skills are already well-formed,” Dr. Rao said. “I really caution parents, let your child choose, let them leave something, any activity, even if they are successful at it, the more exposure they have, the better.”

He says allowing the child to weigh in leads to a more positive childhood sports experience.

“I think that what they are telling us, and it’s a message we had better hear loud and clear, is they need something different; they want to try some new things; they want to sort of expand their wings; they want to meet new friends,” the doctor said. “They want to try different things. They want the room to even make mistakes.”

He says once a child signs up for a particular sport, parents should encourage him or her to stick with it at least until after the season is over. It’s not fair to the rest of the team and the coach to quit midstream, and they learn the important lesson of commitment.

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