youth sports and coronavirus
March 23, 2020 7:48 AM   Subscribe

Sorry for another "how does coronavirus affect x" question, but... how does coronavirus affect x, where x is youth sports and general athletic participation?

I have a three year old girl and a seven month old boy. I was really looking forward to this year because it's time for my daughter to start playing organized sports. We throw footballs and kick soccer balls around the yard together, she has a little basketball hoop she shoots on (a bit of a James Harden-esque approach to dribbling at this point, but whatevs), a batting tee, etc. She really seems to have fun playing sports with me, and she's at the age where she has the physical coordination and attention span to do it well. So I thought that would mean I'd finally fulfill my self-perceived destiny and start being the dad who coaches the kids' sports teams. I'd also like her to start tumbling at some point. Meanwhile, my son is at the age where we started taking my daughter to swim lessons. Swimming with my daughter was such a rewarding experience, and I was excited to do it with my son too. Obviously, both are off the table now.

I'm not as worried about my son. I don't think it'll make much difference whether he "learns to swim" (quotes because it's really just making the kids feel comfortable in the water at this age) at seven months or seven years. This is just one of the few activities he can do as a pre-walker; everything else is him just tagging along in a stroller or Ergobaby.

I am a little worried about my daughter, though. She loves sports, she loves socializing, but she still isn't great with things like sharing. Quite apart from my selfish desires to coach, I think playing with other kids in a structure of rules would be very good for her development. I also see the tumbling thing as pretty important for her later physical development (flexibility, etc.), and from what I've heard, the earlier you start, the better.

From my own perspective, I was really looking forward to coaching. I've coached adult teams in the past, and I find it really fulfilling to teach players concepts, get them working together, and help them achieve things. It's a way for me to be the positive and uplifting person I see myself as. There's an intellectual challenge for me, too, as I have to force myself to learn enough about whatever sport (most recently volleyball) to be able to then teach others. I'd already started reading some kids' soccer materials to prepare for that.

So what do I do? I have some resources at my disposal. We have a yard, and there's a large park with a full baseball diamond, tennis courts, and a football field about two blocks away. I already own a set of cones for my own use, and we have a lot of things like boxes we could set up as obstacles. I am familiar with pretty much all common American team sports from both a physiological (i.e., form) and tactical standpoint, so I feel comfortable teaching her fundamentals. I don't know how I'd simulate things like defense or teamwork, though. And I'm completely at a loss about tumbling, although I don't have a problem buying some mats or something.

Any resources you could suggest?
posted by kevinbelt to Health & Fitness (8 answers total)
play catch and develop basic skills like dribbling both bball and soccer balls. 3 year olds aren't so much on being teammates anyway, so this is not a set back. same for defense.

i don't have a resource but look for age appropriate activities. what organized sports does your area have available? Most things here start at 4 and for good reason.
posted by domino at 7:56 AM on March 23, 2020

I can only speak to athletics, but three is waaaay younger than the age we have anyone doing really organised sports. At her age, it’s play all the way. Some fundamental movement skills development at primary age (5-11), joining clubs from age 9, and competition starts around 11. Any younger and the most important thing is to keep her enjoying being active. Obviously the social side is sadly out right now, so I’d just keep her having fun playing active games with you - she has so much time to pick up the rest.
posted by penguin pie at 8:03 AM on March 23, 2020 [10 favorites]

You don't need to worry, for one. She clearly has a great father and will learn everything she needs to know.

I think at her age you can play simple turn-taking games for teamwork. Pass her the ball, then encourage her to pass it back, things like that.

Whatever you do, keep sports positive and fun. Everything at this age should be encouragement and play. She'll learn teamwork and discipline over a decade or more, she doesn't have to be perfect now. Now is just about letting her enjoy physical activity and encouraging her to associate moving her body with fun.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:21 AM on March 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Kids your daughter's age need to be active, but haven't developed enough to learn "skills". Basic motor coordination is still developing, and her body is rapidly changing as she grows. She's years away from being "coachable" unless she's some sort of savant.
posted by OHenryPacey at 8:29 AM on March 23, 2020 [6 favorites]

We finished up my four-year old's first soccer season, basically the only skills they taught were dribbling the ball and trying to get it into the net. The rest was just chaotic swarms of running around the ball with the 2-3 especially gifted or slightly older kids getting frequent breakaway opportunities.

It was a good experience, but it seemed almost like playacting a team sport--just like the way kids that age often playact a particular behavior they are interested in. I don't think missing out on this season will be an issue long term, she has plenty of opportunities to learn the relevant skills in other contexts, and teamwork type stuff can come from preschool other stuff whenever those things come back.
posted by skewed at 8:56 AM on March 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you're doing everything you should at this point. There's two separate developmental issues at play here: one is making sure she develops gross motor skills and the other is about social skills. Most of the gross motor stuff involves things you can work on at home - dribbling, passing, kicking, tumbling, striking. What really matters is that she's physically confident enough to do active things with peers without having motor issues create social issues.

It's pretty normal for kids your daughter's age to not be great with teamwork in any context. Not clear if she was in preschool before the COVID-19 situation broke out, or whether you're somewhere where kids typically have access to junior kindergarten or Pre-K at four, but if those things are options that's basically a rude awakening bootcamp for a lot of singletons and eldest kids when it comes to learning teamwork. But as someone else said, there's a reason team sports start a bit later - having the attention span and situational awareness to handle one-on-one play is a different ball game than dealing with a whole bunch of other three- and four-year-olds.
posted by blerghamot at 8:57 AM on March 23, 2020

Regarding soccer, my kids didn't start until they were 7 or so, and now at 12 they're quite good. And that's with two parents who know nothing about sports and have zero interest in them. Just a random data point. :)
posted by pyjammy at 12:07 PM on March 23, 2020

Definitely get your 7 month old into the water ASAP. One of the best things we did was get our baby a wetsuit. He is able to stay in the water longer and loves it.

Assuming you don't live in a desert, you can bring your kids to the lake or ocean or river. Maybe wait until it warms up a bit. YMMV but I brought my 21 month old to the beach at low tide in a full body wetsuit two days ago to play in the tide pools. We live in Maine but it was almost 50 and the tide pools were shallow.
posted by pintapicasso at 2:39 PM on March 23, 2020

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