When is Your Child Ready for Athletics?
Parenting 101: There is no rule book.
There are lots of people out there with various opinions offering guidance based upon their own studies or what worked for them. However, the only certainty is that there is no one universally “right” answer. When trying to determine if your child is ready to start athletics, don’t be surprised when you find multiple different answers. There are a few simple guidelines to help determine the right answer for your child. Here are a few things to consider:
How independent are they?
Not every child will walk in to a room of strangers and feel comfortable interacting with others. Is your child able to communicate on their own with a coach and follow directions with little guidance? If you still need to be heavily involved in their coaching and actions, they may not be ready for true athletics just yet – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t ready for introductory activities: There are numerous parent-child classes available from tiny tumblers to pee wee soccer. These kinds of programs tend to focus more on basic social skills, while getting some energy out and building physical strength and coordination. If your child is fairly comfortable taking direction, has the basics down on being part of a group and cooperating, and is safely past the potty training years, they may be ready for athletics.
What are their physical abilities and opportunities?
One of the great things about athletics is that it builds your child’s skills and physical fitness, along with confidence, focus, and social skills.. However, your child should have basic coordination skills prior to participating in athletics. They should be able to walk and run steadily, be capable of regularly catching a ball, throwing or kicking to someone with some level of accuracy, and have refined gross and small motor skills. Typically, around age four or five, most children will be physically ready. In terms of deciding which sport to start them in, consider areas that they have a growth opportunity or talent. For example, if they need to improve balance, gymnastics could be a great fit; if they need to improve in the throwing/ catching department, perhaps baseball or something hand-eye related.
Are they interested?
The number one factor in your decision process should be your child’s interests. Talk with them and open a dialogue, if they haven’t already mentioned something they’d like to participate in. If they have no burning desire, maybe test the waters with a trial class before you become fully invested, and take it from there. If they’re interested, all the better!