Children and Competitive Sports (Part I)

If your child shows an interest in youth sports, the question will come up: Is it time to sign up for a competitive sports team? The answer differs based on the child. Some are more suitable for the pressure that competition brings. Think about these dynamics as you make your decision.

Is Your Child Old Enough for Competitive Sports?

Specialists in child development and youth sports agree: Children aren’t ready for competition until they are at least eight. Before that, they can’t deal the stresses of losing, winning, as well as being gaged and judged on their performance. For kids under 8, sports should be about having fun, laying the groundwork for good sportsmanship, physical activity, and learning new skills.

This doesn’t mean that all children will be prepared for competitive sports when they turn 8. For many children, it’s not until around 10 that they can grasp some of the distinctions that goes with competition. It’s hard to realize that there are times you’ll lose even when you try your best.

Developmentally, children playing competitively need to have enough self-discipline and an excellent attention span. They must be mature enough to listen to and respect the coach, not to mention the ethics of group instruction. If your child is real passionate about soccer but doesn’t have the tolerance to do practice drills over and over, she or he may not be ready to be a part of a competitive team.

Is Your Child Skilled Enough?

Passion doesn’t usually equal skill. Your child may adore baseball, but end up on the bench if he joins a team that’s too progressive for him. Competitive sports teams usually put more importance on winning, which means less gifted athletes don’t typically get lots of playing time.

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