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Children and Sports: A Family Approach

As a parent I confess that choosing when and which sport to enroll my child into caused quite a bit of anxiety; am I doing it too soon, which is the right sport for my child, am I putting too much pressure on my child? These are all valid questions for a parent who is grappling with making the right decision.

When thinking about enrolling your child into sports you should consider how emotionally and physically ready they are to make sure the overall experience is positive. The Mayo Clinic offers a guideline on age appropriate activities  to assist parents when deciding. Often times enrolling a child too soon or into a sport the child is not overly excited about can cause frustration. This early frustration can deter a child from sports all together.

Since children don’t typically grasp the rules of the game until around the age of six or seven, I would caution enrolling children into competitive sports prior to this age. If you do choose to enroll your child into sports earlier than age of six I would recommend choosing a league that emphasizes fun and basic skills. This will help build a solid foundation for good sportsmanship.

There are several circumstances that lead parents to consider enrolling their child into sports. My circumstance stemmed from having an only child. I remember my daughter telling one of my friends a story that I had not considered until I heard it out loud. My daughter was chuckling saying “I am an only child and my parents buy me multiplayer board games for holidays.” Of course when I tried to rationalize this all I could come up with was that we could play them together or when you have sleepovers. I realized she made a good point and this is when we decided it was time to explore activities outside the home.

At the age of six we decided to enroll our daughter into Tae Kwon Do. It was awesome! We found the structured schedule and discipline of the sport really helped with other areas of life too. It reinforced our home values as it taught her that she should respect others and show self-control all while having fun.

By the time she was eight she mastered the Black Belt division. As a mother of a daughter I struggled with the bumps and bruises we encountered during the competitions. Although we never faced anything more than a sprained ankle we still wanted to explore other options for her to interact with other kids her age.

It was at the ripe old age of eight that her father and I began discussing alternative sports. I wasn’t focused on anything specific, but I did believe we should explore some type of team sport considering she was an only child. Learning to share was at the top of our priority list. Of course daddy was partial to basketball.

So it was decided. Basketball it is! We enrolled her at the local YMCA where she was excited to see several of her school friends had also signed up. This was perfect since we as parents could use the gym facility while she enjoyed playing a team sport with fellow students. She actually excelled at basketball. Of course as her mother I could be bias.

During our time at the YMCA we encountered the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) who send scouts out to local recreation facilities looking for kids to joined competitive organized sports. Our daughter indeed continued on with AAU basketball and finished her sports path playing varsity basketball through high school graduation.

There are several reasons and benefits of children’s sports. Each stage of our daughter’s development came with its share of lessons, challenges and successes. It’s always important to be able to assess and adapt.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to the question “When is the right time to enroll my child into sports?” However, it is important to approach this decision as a family. Consider all parties involved to increase the opportunity for success.

Things To Consider:

  • What is the goal? Socialize, Exercise, Structure, Playtime, Sportsmanship
  • How much time as a parent do you have to make the meets and practice times?
  • What does the child enjoying doing?
  • Emotional and Physical Ability
  • Cost
  • Are Annual Health Physicals Required? BayCare Children’s Health

Local Opportunities:

City of Tampa Youth Leagues and Sports


Amateur Athletic Union

Berkeley Prep Sports 5-6 years and 7-14 years

Mommy and Me Meet-ups


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