Ideally, youth sports should be an addition to healthy active and natural play for a kid. I’ve found that more and more kids are getting less and less physical activity. So to make up for it, parents put their kids into organized youth sports.
Realize that organized youth sports are going to take a commitment of some type; mostly time and money. Also, be aware that 75% of kids quit sports at thirteen. And I bet it’s up to 85 or 90% by time they are seventeen. So youth sports are not the complete answer, but they do help. And it can be a lot of fun for kids.
Team Sports: The big youth team sports are soccer and swimming. There are a lot of ways to get involved at various skill levels. You can get started as a beginner or not very athletic and have some fun and learn some skills.
For soccer, many of the coaches at the recreational level will be volunteers. They receive minimal training but the organizations do a good job of assisting and setting up developmentally appropriate goals and rules. At the top and elite levels, many of the coaches will be full time coaches and be very knowledgeable about the sport. They might not be so knowledgeable about making the best decisions for your child.
Swimming too, has a lot of different levels of coaching. There are the country club and Y level teams which are geared more for summer and instruction. Then there are the US Swimming teams which go year round and try to get kids to swim in the upper levels including college and even the Olympics.
Obviously, to be good it takes skill and dedication to reach the top levels for swimming and soccer. Many kids will have private coaching and even their own strength coaches (I recommend it, if it’s appropriate).
But for beginning kids and recreational athletes both sports provide an excellent entry into team sports. Swimming might be a bit better for kids that are overweight because they can have more success. Another aspect that swimming has for the less athletic child is that it is more self-directed and goal oriented. Soccer is entirely a team sport and the success of the team depends on everyone being at a certain level.
In swimming, you swim your own event and except for relays you’re on your own. You can measure your improvement easily by watching your times drop.
Another advantage swimming might have is that you’re unlikely to get cut from a high school team. Soccer is more competitive and most teams will cut. Only the most competitive high schools cut. And if you have any experience at all, you’ll find more success at high school then you will as a club or year round swimmer.
Looks like I missed a lot of sports. I guess I’ll have to continue this in another blog post.