Choosing the right sport for your child
Why should my child play sport?
Team sports can help teach younger children many important social skills such as winning and losing, team work and playing by the rules. Additionally, they will learn to follow instructions and can develop a wider friendship circle. Older children benefit from the positive self-image that comes with mastery of skills, while developing their leadership abilities.
There are also numerous physical benefits of playing sport, including:
- Improved physical fitness and endurance
- Increased strength and flexibility
- Better balance and co-ordination
- Development of “Gross Motor” Skills such as throwing and catching
- Reduced fatigue with everyday activities
- Regulation of mood and sleep
- Curbing creeping weight gain
Additionally, most sports include a regular period of stretching at training and on game day, which can help maintain muscle length during rapid growth spurts during childhood and adolescence.
Which sport should my child play?
While your child is still in early primary school, it is best to involve them in a variety of sports. You may find it helpful to enrol your child in the same sporting teams as their school friends, or ask for your child’s opinion when choosing a sport to ensure it is a positive experience. Additionally, many sporting clubs offer a trial period or a skills development day, where young children can try the sport and commit to an entire season if they find it enjoyable.
As a general rule, all children should complete a series of swimming lessons for the practical aspects of water safety and confidence in our beach-loving culture. Swimming also has the added benefits of improving ‘core strength’, which promotes good posture and can help your child sit for extended periods of time in the classroom.
You may find it beneficial to pick two sports across the two main seasons of the year that focus on developing different skills. E.g. Soccer in the winter for physical fitness and kicking skills; Baseball in the summer for throwing, catching and using a bat. Alternatively, individual sports such as athletics, tennis and dancing usually run consistently throughout the year, though these should be paired with a team sport for the social benefits. Over time, your child’s natural talents and abilities will begin to direct which sports they would like to play long term.
“But my child has Special Needs…”
Children with physical disabilities can often find great pleasure in playing sport through specialised disability sporting associations. There are a wide variety of sports available, from horse riding to cricket for children with vision impairment. Children and adolescents with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can benefit from repetitive activities such as distance running and swimming, as these activities promote regulation of arousal levels. Swimming or specialised Aquatic Therapy is a fantastic activity for children with all sorts of special needs because it offers many physical benefits with the added bonus of being fun! South West Kids Clinic offers Aquatic Therapy on Friday afternoons during school terms –ask your therapist for more details.