Introducing Children to Team Sports

When kids reach a playful age, they exhibit interest in engaging a number of sports during their playtime. This should be a green light that you need to introduce your child to sports; who knows, they may realize their talent early and make the best out of it. On choosing the right sport for your child, the large number of options at your disposal may spoil you for choice, but that should not be a bother at all, there are organizations out there where you can take your kid to get started, provided your kid enjoys the exposure.

Not every child wants or needs an early introduction to sports. But consider the benefits. Sports teams and camps offer a healthy way to channel children’s boundless energy. That crucial life skill, “teambuilding,” is best taught to children playing on some sort of team. And certain sports, like swimming, are worth learning for safety reasons.

Given the upside, the keyword that parents of young ones need to remember is fun. Talent is not an issue yet; rather, it’s important to make sure the experience is enjoyable.

So how do you decide which activities to introduce to your children? Kids may be especially attracted to sports played by an older sibling or friend. Alternatively, a parent could show a child a picture of other kids playing that sport, either from the program’s brochure, a magazine or book.

Many organizations offer sampler programs that introduce children to several sports. Mercer Island’s Parks and Recreation Department, for example, added its “Wild Wacky Week” class this summer, a week of basketball, track and soccer. Parents could get kids involved without having to commit to a single sport for an entire season or camp session.

Ideally, the child would love the activity so much that he or she would participate enthusiastically for the entire practice. In reality, there are times a parent may do well to offer an incentive for a good session, such as going out for ice cream or taking a trip to a favorite playground.

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Deciding the best sport for your kid may prove a challenge, but the greater challenge you will face is deciding on the right age for a particular sport, or for letting the kid start sporting. There are different ages at which kids are good for different games, going a step after the other as the kid grows up and observing what he or she seems more comfortable with at a particular time can make things easy for you.

Toddlers and preschoolers (2 to 5 years old) may be beginning to get the hang of many basic movements but are too young for most organized sports. So at this age don’t stress too much if your little one isn’t enrolled in a dozen after-school activities.

 At this age unstructured free play is usually best such as running, dancing, tumbling, throwing, catching and swimming. However, if your 3-year-old is showing a passion for football or ice skating don’t discourage it, but make sure the environment is suitable for your child. Contact your local club and find out what their recommended starting age is and what level of commitment is required. Remember there’s no rush — your football-mad toddler will be more than happy chasing a ball around the garden with you until he’s old enough to join a team.

As children get older their vision, ability to concentrate for extended periods of time, attention spans and transitional skills, such as throwing for distance, improve. They’re also better able to follow directions. For 6 to 9 year olds consider organised activities such as running, football, touch rugby, gymnastics, swimming, tennis and martial arts.

By the age of 10 children have mature vision, better coordination and balance and the ability to understand and recall sports strategies. They are typically ready to take on complex skill sports, such as football, basketball, hockey, netball and volleyball.

As well as considering whether a sport is age-appropriate for your child, take into account how much they will enjoy the activity based on their maturity and abilities. Your child may show a natural preference for one activity over another, which shouldn’t be ignored.

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Both boys and girls are vibrant with life as they grow up, wanting to play and utilize their energy, make fun and associate. Many at times, both genders play together, which grows a great lesson of building team work and socializing. However, there are a number of issues which tend to compromise the advantage of kids of different genders teaming up in sports.

Skill Level

Sports teams are often divided by age, weight or skill level, depending on the league. High schools will have varsity and junior varsity teams to distinguish skill level, and community recreation teams usually divide players up by age. Boys and girls of the same age likely have different skill levels. Boys are usually taller and stronger than girls, which can give them an advantage on the playing field. If girls are on the same team as them, they might not perform as well as they could on an all-girls team, where they would be up against players with a similar skill set.


Boys and girls might be more comfortable playing sports with the same sex. Boys might fear being too aggressive with girls on the playing field. From a social perspective, they might fear failing in front of girls who they like socially. Girls, on the other hand, might be more timid when playing with boys, which might inhibit their athletic skills. They might feel more supported by an all-girls team than a coed one.


Coaches can face challenges when leading a coed sports team. Although every player might respond to different motivations, coaches can find general ways to motivate teams of boys or teams of girls. Motivating a team of boys and girls, who inherently might have different reasons for playing or factors that motivate them, can be particularly challenging. Finding a gender-neutral way to coach and motivate a team is a disadvantage of coed sports.


Logistically, coed sports teams present a few challenges. While coaches can overcome these logistical challenges, the effort might not be worth it when all of the disadvantages of coed teams are considered. Boys and girls often wear different styles and cuts of uniforms, doubling the effort that teams have to make when selecting uniforms. When teams retreat to the locker room at halftime, boys and girls will go to separate rooms, making it difficult for a halftime speech from the coach to prepare athletes for the rest of the game.

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