“While it is great that parents encourage their kids to participate, ultimately it has to be the kids who want to play because they enjoy the game…”
–Foster Cline and Jim Fay, Parenting with Love and Logic
In the last century and a half, the opportunities to play organized youth sports have greatly multiplied. From the founding of the YMCA in 1851 until now, the burgeoning options from which to choose can be overwhelming for parents. It requires some thoughtful consideration to choose the appropriate sport(s) for your young athlete. The irony is that ultimately the sport ends up choosing your child.
Sampling in the early years is most important. There are aptitudes and inclinations that are intrinsic within your child. Exposing him or her to multiple sports, observing the activities he/she most enjoys and performs with more willingness and ease, will give you the clues you need. Over time, you will realize what sports your child is good at and what he/she enjoys…most often one in the same.
Over the course of your child’s sports journey, expect to be surprised as he/she selects, or is selected for specific opportunities. Our oldest daughter was a gymnast until age 12 when she fractured her vertebra, an overuse injury. Her journey diverged and she became a cheerleader, eventually earning a scholarship to cheer at the University of Alabama. My middle daughter who loved all animals, competed in hunter jumper in horseback riding, played basketball, softball, cheered, but found her greatest fit in track and field. She earned the privilege of attending an Ivy League school where she was a heptathlete. My son played baseball from age 5 and loved every minute until he grew into his lanky frame. It was at about age 16 that he learned that he had great passion for and was pretty good at football. Not only did he quit baseball, but he ended up being drafted by the Indianapolis Colts after his college career.
There’s a limit to what you have control over. You can aim your child in the direction of a sport, but there’s a time to take your hands off the reins, and watch his/her story unfold. Every story can be successful, and you can actually participate and enjoy the journey when you understand how to define success in sports. It’s not whether your child becomes an Olympian, or earns a college scholarship, or even a starting position on the team. It’s when something of lasting value beyond the sports experience impacts your child’s life. Because what we do know, is that the sports experience ends at some point for everybody. Its true value is measured in how the quality of one’s life has been enhanced.