Children's health (35)
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Children and sports: Choices for all ages
Compare the options
If several sports are available in your community, allow your child to sample a range of activities before settling on one or two — perhaps both team sports and individual sports. When you're comparing sports, consider the:
- Amount and cost of equipment
- Amount of physical contact
- Emphasis on individual skill vs. team performance
- Opportunity for each child to participate
- Amount of time parents and children must devote to the sport
Also consider your child's schedule. Children who are already signed up for music lessons or other activities may feel overwhelmed if athletics are added to the mix. Above all, however, make sure your child really wants to play. Organized athletics have many benefits, but a healthy lifestyle doesn't have to include sports. What's most important is helping your child realize that physical activity is fun.
As your child tries various sports, stay involved. Consider:
- Team assignments. Are the children grouped according to physical maturity and skill level?
- Coaching quality. Look for an emphasis on safety and participation. Does the coach require that players follow the rules and use proper safety equipment? Do players take time to warm up and cool down before and after each practice or event? In hot weather, does the coach pay attention to hydration, humidity and temperature? Are children taught proper movement and body positioning? Does everyone have a chance to play?
- Coaching style. Also consider a coach's attitude toward the game. If a coach consistently yells at the children or lets only the most skilled players into the game, your child may become discouraged. Beware of a win-at-all-costs attitude.
Overall, be positive and encouraging. Emphasize effort and improvement over winning or personal performance. Attend events and practices as your schedule allows, and act as a good model of sportsmanship yourself. Whether your child swims, runs track or plays catch in the backyard, keep your eye on the long-term goal — a lifetime of physical activity.Previous page
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- Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. Policy statement: Strength training by children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2008;121:835.
- Facts for families: Children and sports. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. http://www.aacap.org/galleries/FactsForFamilies/61_children_and_sports.pdf. Accessed June 15, 2010.
- Shelov SP, et al. Your three-year-old. In: Shelov SP, et al. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. 5th ed. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books; 2009:361.
- Preventing injury in children's sports. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/fitness/Pages/Preventing-Injury-in-Childrens-Sports.aspx. Accessed June 15, 2010.
- Vehrs PR. Overview of physical activity and strength training in children and adolescents. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed June 15, 2010.