How to Find the Perfect Sport or Activity for Your Child.
Finding the perfect activity for your child can be tough. Not only does your child change over the years, but the demands placed on them in certain sports and activities also change over time. Sometimes trial and error can be the only way to help your child find his/her niche, but I am going to create one entire hub to different options you may want to consider while helping your child find out what most interests them.
School or Community Sponsored Sports
One of the easiest ways to start checking out what is out there for you child is to look into what is offered in the local schools or communities. These sports and activities tend be a little more financially feasible, since they are supported and often times funded externally. This is usually the best way to start out so that the child can determine if they are interested in the sport before you go spending a fortune on uniforms and equipment. I will briefly discuss some of the more common sports generally offered through schools and communities.
Baseball, Softball, and Tee Ball
Tee Ball was the first sport that I signed my daughter up for. She was not yet in school, but the community we resided in had parent volunteers coaching a few teams at the local park. The children would practice every Wednesday and hold a game every Saturday throughout the season. The only expense for the parents was the $15 team T-shirt. All of the other equipment was donated to the group. Of course if your child is in middle school or high school, baseball practices and games may be more demanding, and there may be more expense involved. But if your child has a passion for baseball it is definitely worth it. Watching the ball and swinging the bat teaches hand eye coordination, and you never know, your child might be the next professional baseball player. Though this did not turn out to be my daughter's niche, she did enjoy the pizza parties that were held occasionally and made a few friends in the process.
Basketball is another sport commonly available to children in the school and community. It can be very easy to determine if your child will have an interest in this sport by just bringing them to a local park that has a court available. Basketball really teaches muscle coordination and control to be able to dodge around other players. It is not always necessary to belong to a team to enjoy basketball because many parks have courts available to the public, and many kids enjoy playing one-on-one with their friends. Even if your child does join a team, the expense associated with basketball is usually not very offensive. Unless, of course, you are going to put a private court in your backyard for them to play in.
Though football can tend to be a little rough, it may be the perfect sport for some children. There are many different positions to be played, and each requires different talents. Some positions need speed and others strength, so there are multiple attributes that your child may have and still enjoy football. Learning all of the different plays required to be on a football team can help your child with memory skills. No football player wants the other team to know what they are going to do next, thus complex patterns must be learned and memorized by all of the players. Though football is a rough and tumble sport, some children find it very energizing and rewarding.
Though many people do not consider cheerleading a sport, believe it or not, cheerleading requires many talents and skills. Performing complicated stunts requires strength and flexibility, and at the same time it teaches the child that they must trust their team members not to let them fall. Cheerleading also requires dedication and perseverance to keep trying even when a pyramid or stunt does not go as planned. Children can get involved in cheerleading through their school and community, but there are also cheerleading teams out there that are strictly competition teams. These competition cheerleaders generally don't cheer for any specific sport, but they train to compete at local, state, and national competitions. This type of cheering can become very expensive due to the travel necessary to compete, and most competition team members usually have previous cheerleading experience. Either type of cheerleading team usually incorporates other activities into their routine. Gymnastics and dance skills are often needed and many cheerleaders take lessons in both to improve their skills.
Other sports that may be available
Depending on the size of the school or community, many other sports may be offered. Each sport listed below has its own unique benefits and requires different skills and talents.
Speed, strength, and flexibility are all important in wrestling because it requires one child to be capable of overtaking another and being able to control their movements for a period of time. Part of the match takes place in standing position, but matches are generally won on the floor. This is why speed is so important. Strength generally comes in once the match goes to the floor and flexibility is needed during both parts of the match. One thing to remember with wrestling is the weight issue. Wrestling opponents are matched up using weight classes, and if a competitor does not make the weight, the team will have to forfeit that match. It can be very difficult for some parents to watch their child try to lose or gain the weight necessary for this sport.
I have to admit that I know very little about this sport, but I do know that for many children who have not found enjoyment in other sports, it has become their favorite weekend activity. Though it may be a little on the pricey side when you consider greens fees, cart rental, clubs, etc., it may be worth it for you if your child just doesn't seem interested in anything else. What I hear from my neighbor's son, who absolutely loves to golf with his dad, is that golf is fun and challenging.
My daughter also spent two years playing soccer on a community team when she was young. During those two years she learned how to work together with other team members to achieve a common goal. Many children strive to be their best at things without realizing that teamwork may be more important in their success. Soccer really helped to develop her, and it taught her how to work well with others to reach an outcome that everyone on the team is striving for. Not only did she build character, but she became stronger and faster at every practice. Soccer also taught her to think outside of the box when she realized she couldn't use her hands. She had to find other ways to do things that she was not used to, and this trait spilled over into everyday life. When a difficult task became necessary she always thought of alternatives that might make the task easier.
Though more of an individual sport, tennis is also a great option for children. Tennis requires that the players build their endurance levels up so that they can play for longer periods of time. It provides and excellent cardio workout while also teaching hand to eye coordination. It may be slightly frustrating in the beginning to get the hang of developing the proper swing, but with practice, your child will become better. Though it is not offered in many schools, there are many private instructors out there that will schedule individual or group lessons for fairly reasonable prices.
Swimming and Diving
There are many different avenues that children can take if they are interested in water activities. Swimming lessons are available in may communities that will teach children proper strokes, how to float, and basic techniques that they can use if they find themselves in trouble in the water. Children can also become part of a swimming team through the community or their school. These teams generally focus on speed and help children develop their endurance. Some children may go a different route and want to learn synchronized swimming or diving. No matter the water sport a child pursues, there are many benefits. Swimming and diving are generally much easier on the joints than land activities, and as long as an indoor pool is available, the child can practice all year long.
School or Community Sponsored Activities other than Sports
Some children just aren't cut out for the rough and tumble world of sports, but that doesn't mean that there is nothing out there for them. Many community organizations exist that may be more their speed. Here are some of them that I am familiar with.
Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts
Girl scouts and boy scouts are wonderful organizations that teach children leadership skills, strong values, and many types of educational lessons. Some may think that this sounds boring, but often times children involved in scouting can find other interests quickly. Both girl scouts and boy scouts work toward earning badges that they can display proudly on their uniform. These badges cover a large variety of topics, such as first aid, arts and crafts, archery, and woodworking. Each of the badges, and trust me there are hundreds, requires both education and skill tasks to be completed. Earning these badges are often a source of self esteem and confidence to the scouts.
Much like scouting, 4-H offers children amazing opportunities in recreation and education. Clubs exist for all types of interests. My daughter belongs to an equestrian club where she learns everything you need to know to own your own horse. There are also gardening clubs, arts and crafts clubs, leadership clubs, the list goes on and on. If your child seems to have an interest that is out of the ordinary, such as beekeeping, I would bet you could find a club that fits their interest. Oh yeah, and if you can't find one, you can probably start one of your own. Just find the 4-H extension office nearest you and they can get your the information.
Most schools offer a variety of clubs to the students attending. Foreign language, chess, debate, and environmental clubs are just some that I am familiar with. Occasionally some schools will let students form their own club if it is not already available and is appropriate for the school setting. The guidance office or school web site would probably be a good place to start to get information regarding school club options.
Every community has dozens of options if your child is interested in volunteer work. Animal shelters, homeless shelters, and churches are a great place to start. Volunteer work may not be considered by most parents when trying to determine what extracurricular activity to involve their children in, but it should be. Volunteer work will teach a child so many things that other activities will not. They will understand what it feels like to help without expecting anything in return, not to mention it will come in handy later in life when completing college applications and resumes.
Independent Activities: Usually not offered in schools
There are many other sports and activities available to children that are not supported, financially that is, by the communities and schools. I will grant you however, these are often more expensive, and require a different type of commitment from the family. Some even require signing a year long contract. If your child has a true passion for the sport, you probably wouldn't mind, but definitely take advantage of free trials before signing a contract.
Though a very expensive activity, horseback riding is one sport that my daughter finally found as her calling. She began by taking lessons at a local barn once a week, which I found fairly inexpensive. She then decided to integrate her riding with her 4-H activities and started competing in horse judging contests. There are also many options when the love for equestrian activities avails. English and Western style riding are very different, and love for one over the other often occurs once heavily involved. My daughter enjoys a little of both, but Western barrel racing is her favorite. Horseback riding can become very expensive, but it is 100% worthwhile if your child finds their dream resides there.
Photos of my daughter and her favorite activities
Another activity my daughter also found as her calling was Taekwondo, a style of the martial arts. I also participated in the martial arts, though a different style, as a child for 9 years. We both learned so much from this sport that I can say nothing negative about it other than the expense. Self-discipline, respect, self-esteem, and confidence are just a few of the attributes we acquired. Of course we also developed strength, flexibility, endurance, and control while practicing and competing. Tournaments were difficult for both of us at first because we are very reserved people, but eventually, with a lot of hard work, we both became addicted to the thrill of competition. Martial arts training is one of the best thing that my parents ever offered to me, and that is why I offered it to my daughter.
Martial Arts Training at my daughter's studio
As a gymnastics student for many years, I have seen both the benefits and drawbacks of such a sport. For many children, gymnastics can be a wonderful activity where they will gain flexibility, strength, and coordination skills. Unfortunately, injuries are common, and as a parent of a gymnast one must watch carefully or small injuries may go unnoticed causing major problems later. Gymnastic lessons themselves are not very expensive, but if a child decides to go on to competitive training, the financial commitment can become overwhelming.
Gymnastics Training Video
Though I realize there are many other activities and sports that I have not described, I will list others that I know of for completeness. I am hoping that with all of these opportunities, any parent reading this will be able to find the perfect fit for their child.
Other sports and activities not described above.
Billiards (Pool) Dance (Tap, Jazz, Ballet, etc.)
Skiing (Downhill/Cross Country) Ice Skating
Rollerblading, Rollerskating, and Skateboarding
Anyone interested in more information about these activities can request a hub from me and I will be happy to do the research and publish one. Please just give me at least two weeks to do the appropriate research.