when to promote sport.
January 27, 2009 8:30 PM   Subscribe

When should one attempt to promote team sports to a boy?

Of course, every child is different, and you are not my son’s parent, and only I (and the missus) can really tell, but, disclaimers aside, what’s your experience been with starting team sports for your son, or daughter? What are the development milestones I should look for that means he’ll more likely enjoy it? Did you try too early, and have to give it another go later? Any anecdotes welcome (or hey, links to research good too).
posted by wilful to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Disclaimer: I do not have kids. I speaking from the experience I had in being a (female) kid.
The first sport I played was coed YMCA tee ball when I was four and I LOVED it. I still remember loving it. It was a great experience. My younger brother started tee ball at the same age, but didn't enjoy it quite as much. He did, however, stick with sports much longer than I did as he got older.

I think a good barometer would be when your kid shows an interest in playing a sport (or an instrument or whatever it is that the kid likes because hey, maybe he doesn't like sports that much). Probably he'll hear about a team through his school or neighborhood friends, which would be even better because you could put him on a team with people he already knows...sort of ease him into it if he's afraid he'll be alone.
posted by phunniemee at 8:40 PM on January 27, 2009


I was introduced to sports WAY earlier than I should have. It wasn't because I started it at a certain age, but because I didn't have the social skills to enjoy myself. It was a great source of stress. I seriously believe I had more stress, and more stress-induced behavior when I was in the third grade than I do now as an adult with a family.

When your son plays with others (well), knows the difference between right and wrong, and can accomplish goal-oriented tasks, I think thats a good time to introduce him to (team) sports.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:44 PM on January 27, 2009


I started playing Tee Ball and Soccer at around 4. I say sign them up for a season and if they don't enjoy it they don't have to play. I enjoyed it immensely and to be completely honest, I think it made school tolerable, as being athletic tempered my natural nerdery.
posted by schyler523 at 8:49 PM on January 27, 2009


AFL Auskick starts at five. Football fandom starts at conception, though some scientists believe it may be earlier.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:09 PM on January 27, 2009


All three of my kids were different. My daughter started playing soccer in kindergarten and also played t-ball. She still plays team sports in high school, but is not a competitive sort. My older son, plays on travel teams and rec teams and he started also in kindergarten. He is very competitive and has been since he learned to understand what the word meant. My younger son, started in kindergarten and has pretty much stopped team sports in the 6th grade. He never really liked being on a team. He would play goalie in soccer so he wouldn't have to interact with the team and would play pitcher in baseball because he was in control and not having to wait around for others. He is an X games type of sport enthusiast. He snow boards, rides a bmx bike, hikes, snow mobiles, etc. I think they all learned a lot about being teammates and themselves by playing team sports early on. Sharing and working with others is important. One son only plays team sports and excels while the other excels at individual events. Let 'em try and see. If they aren't ready, you will know or if they don't like it, back off and try again next season or next sport. Once it became my kid's choice, around the second grade, they dropped some and stuck with others. I did require it be a full commitment because they were part of a team and others were counting on them. No not showing up because they did not feel like it.

I myself played basketball, lacrosse and hockey. I got more out of hanging with the team and learning to watch each other's back while playing a role than I did with the games. I still play softball and look forward to it more than I a grown boy should.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:18 PM on January 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think it totally depends on the kid and their individual level of coordination and social skills. The main thing for us when our kids were small was to remember that starting team sports as a kid is just about experimentation. What is this sport like? What is it like to run around a field? What is it like to wear a uniform? I would say when you think they are ready to have a regular activity, give it a whirl. Be open to the kid not liking the sport.

We have four kids and they each have different sport affinities.

We started at about four years of age for each of them.

I have only ever pulled one of them out without finishing the season and it was because it was just NO FUN for him. If you force them when it isn't something they can at least tolerate, if not enjoy, you run the risk of souring them forever when it comes to team sports. Turns out he just hated soccer. He's now a baseball kid and much happier.

That said, we have ended up with all the kids very active in their sport of choice and we do not put pressure on them to play year round or to find other sports, if they have one that they enjoy. I think it has helped to keep team sports enjoyable for them, instead of a burden.
posted by Edubya at 9:19 PM on January 27, 2009


Response by poster: Actually Fiasco, I was more thinking Walla Rugby. So he could get beaten up at school for being odd.

5 to 8 year olds, they're saying.
posted by wilful at 9:22 PM on January 27, 2009


My son started hockey at five/almost six, after a year of the CanSkate program. At that point, it was a chance to hang with his pals, with the occasional swipe at the puck as it passed by. I would say it was about right, because he's really social, so my own experience is that, when they have attained some level of consistent social interaction skills, it's a good idea.
posted by liquado at 9:49 PM on January 27, 2009


When the sports team being promoted is the 49ers...
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 10:54 PM on January 27, 2009


As early as possible. Get them into the sports system for at least a couple of sports every year. It helps social development, it helps promote physical development etc. This is even more true for the nerdy types so that they feel comfortable in multiple worlds, the brains, the jocks, etc. These camps start getting balkanized ever earlier so getting them in early, even if they won't be a star, and trust me they will surprise you sometimes, pays dividents that can extend through high school. Of course if they are going to be athletic stars well, then the early muscle learning is all to their benefit as well. I think you want to get them in as early as the programs allow. I have watched a huge number of our local kids interact with the local sports programs for very young kids and those who started from the beginning ages seemed to get ths most out of it in all aspects, athletic, social, etc. Get them into sports early and often as long as they even sort of have interest.
posted by caddis at 12:19 AM on January 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I started in soccer when I was five, and that worked out fine. As far as developmental milestones, I would think that at that age, it's more of a social thing than a sports thing. Can your kid get along with others? Semi-focus on the activity at hand for more than a couple of minutes? Follow instructions and learn basic rules? Really I think it's most useful for them to just get out and run around with other kids in an organized environment. They love wearing their uniforms and special cleats, shin guards, etc. Getting an orange slice at halftime and using the rind as a mouthpiece is just as important as playing the game.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 7:16 AM on January 28, 2009


Our four then five then six year old resisted all sports suggestions that I could think of. I talked it over with the wife and decided that 'she'll be ready when she's ready.'

Last year she expressed interest in gymnastics and I asked if she wanted to take a class. She said yes and she's been on Cloud 9 ever since.

They'll let you know when they're ready. FWIW, there were no team sports when I was growing up and I did just fine when middle school and high school rolled around.
posted by unixrat at 7:16 AM on January 28, 2009


It really depends on the league. In a good, child-centered league children learn teamwork, physical coordination and social skills. Those are all good, important skills for children to learn. In a bad league that's all about the parents' egos, kids learn to be whiny asshats.

Another thing to consider, is your child at roughly the same level of development relative to kids his age? Some kids develop coordination later than others. If you child is a few steps behind in physical or emotional maturity, team sports can be a frustrating experience. It's probably better to hold off for a year and let him catch up to his peers.

Our girls started in sports at 4 or 5. One played team sports through high school, one through middle school, and one wasn't really interested.
posted by 26.2 at 7:49 AM on January 28, 2009


Seconding caddis - as early as possible. If it's American football or rugby, then maybe let their bodies develop a little more. But at four years old, they'll get out there and run around and chase a soccer ball and not completely understand that they are becoming comfortable working with other kids, learning to "perform" in front of parents and fans, developing skills of coordination and balance. Also, it is very hard to pick up a sport when one is a teenager and become exceptionally skilled at it. So, if your goal is to get your child to become as good as possible at whatever sport it is you're thinking about getting them involved in, the sooner they start the better they will be. Of course, there is a huge difference between signing your kids up for soccer/tennis/rugby/basketball and encouraging them to play and do well, and pushing your kids so hard that they hate the sport and resent you. My suggestion is to get your kids involved in as many sports as possible, as early as possible, and let them get out there and run around and interact with other kids and have a good time. Eventually they will pick one or two sports that they like the best (or perhaps they will like none) and they will let you know which ones they want to pursue further. Just be supportive and positive and listen to the feedback they inevitably will give you.
posted by billysumday at 8:04 AM on January 28, 2009


Also, there are certain "skill" sports that, if one wants to be exceptional at, require you to have started at an early age. I played tennis and you could pretty much tell who had been playing since they were 4 or 5 - they were the ones who were incredibly good and completely aware on the court. Most all tennis pros have been playing their entire lives. Hockey is another sport where it seems like getting on the ice and learning to skate at the youngest possible age is very beneficial in being good later on. Golf seems like another one. Other sports, like football, and maybe rugby?, it seems like athletic ability is more beneficial to success than learned skill, so so long as one is physically talented, one can jump in and learn the necessary skills to be good later in life. Not that you're looking to train a stable of prodigies or anything, just saying - some sports seem to require more of an investment at an early age than other sports.
posted by billysumday at 8:10 AM on January 28, 2009


We have some 5 year olds on the youth touch rugby team I help coach. Tackle doesn't start until 10 or 12, I think. It's an organized sport in the sense that there's a team and some general rules, but it's mostly just a bunch of young kids chasing a ball around.
posted by electroboy at 8:34 AM on January 28, 2009


Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your comments.

I have no great interest in pushing my sons like an awful pushy parent, I just want them to enjoy themselves, and if they're talented, become good at it. Son #1 is only three, average coordination but quite social, so we'll see in a year or two. Really depends on what's on offer locally. Rugby's my first preference, or footy (Australian rules) or even soccer, but I'll determine based on the welcome offered by the club.
posted by wilful at 4:56 PM on January 28, 2009


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