If your child wants to join a team, youth leagues offer plenty of options. And certainly there is nothing quite like being in the midst of a herd of 6-year-olds chasing a soccer ball to get the adrenaline pumping.
But the question is: Is being part of a team, youth league or otherwise, the best approach?
Certainly playing a team sport offers plenty of advantages. In addition to getting your child out there running and using her body, team sports teach about teamwork, good sportsmanship, discipline, adhering to rules and the hard facts of winning and losing. Your child may have the opportunity to learn a sport that you don’t know much about. It also provides great opportunities to socialize for both parents and kids.
We’ve enjoyed the times we spent at soccer games on a crisp fall day cheering our kids on.
But the downside is this: While your child is running around, you may not be. I’ve watched too many parents on the sidelines just sitting and chatting, or even digging in to a serving of nachos from the food stand.
Now of course, you can counteract this. During practice you can do some laps around the field, do curls with water bottles or squats. I’ve done that with some success. During games, you can stay standing and discretely sneak in a few squats or calf raises.
But more importantly, you’re losing out on the opportunity to have fun and do fitness together.
Remember, your child is at school all day. This after school time is your time together. When you shuffle him off to a team activity, the fitness together part is lost – even if you get some laps in while watching.
Kids today have so much time to socialize with their peers in school and on play dates. What they’re missing more often than not is time socializing with their parents and siblings – probably the most important socialization process there is.
If you’re worried about developing their soccer skills or baseball prowess and you don’t feel qualified to coach them, think again. This may be a great opportunity to learn something together. I’ve bettered my soccer skills, learned basketball from scratch, started rockclimbing and I’m now taking on jiu jitsu with my kids.
Get some good instructional videos or books – even pair up with another family that has some of the skills you may be missing. If you’re lucky, you may even find a recreational league or school that has kids and adults learn together. I’ve seen classes for martial arts, rockclimbing and skiing that use this approach.
But also keep in mind that at the beginning with most of these team sports, the most important thing is just to get out there kick the soccer ball around, toss the football or try to make a basket. The coaching needed by a 6 year old is more about developing coordination and just moving than getting down to the details of how.
At some point, you may have to give in and join the herd of chauffering soccer moms chasing down herds of soccer-ball chasing kids. Your kids eventually may get to the point where they want more rigorous competition and need a level of coaching you can’t provide them.
But don’t jump into this too soon. Playing soccer as a family team, youth and adults together, provides a rich opportunity for fitness and family bonding that shouldn’t be passed up lightly.