Sam Flatman, an expert in playground design from Pentagon Sport, talks us through how parents can help their children find the sport they will love.
We all know that it would do the world of good if our children spent a little less time online and more time outside. Getting your kids into sports is a great way to improve not only their health and well-being, but also their social lives. But with so many sports out there, it can be hard to know which one to choose for your child…
For most children, sports start with their parents in the park. You can practise the basics of almost any sport – throwing, kicking, running and communicating – with just two people. Playing with your child and noticing which activities they show interest in time and time again is a great way to discover which sports that they are leaning towards. If they enjoy an activity, they are more likely to excel at it. Do they always reach for the skateboard when you head to the park? It might be time to look for a local skate instructor. Are they able to throw a ball with accuracy? Why not see how they do when faced with a wicket?
Team sports or individual sports?
If your child has no idea which sport is right for them, then you can narrow it down with some basic questions. One of the biggest questions is should you opt for a team sport or an individual one? Both are a great way of getting active, but they tend to develop a slightly different set of skills from one another.
In individual sports, like tennis or golf, there are less opportunities to practise working as a team, but more chances to learn how to cope with high pressure situations. In team sports, such as cricket or basketball, the pressure is shared, but so are the responsibilities. If practising teamwork is a priority for your child, then team sports may be the answer. If you’d like your child to learn to take personal responsibility or be able to cope under pressure, then an individual sport is an excellent solution.
Sports by body type
If your child isn’t a natural athlete, they might think that sports aren’t for them when they find out that they’re not the fastest kid on the playground. Don’t despair! There is a sport out there that suits your child, it’s just a matter of finding it.
Remind your child that olympic athletes, the very best sportspeople in the world, come in all shapes and sizes – and that having fun is more important than reaching a professional level anyway! A strong build might not be great for a race around the track, but it’s fantastic for shrugging off a tackle on the rugby field. A slim frame might not be the best when it comes to hitting the rounders ball, but you might be surprised by how they excel at cross-country and long-distance cycling.
Sports can be very rewarding, but you need to put the hours in to reap those gains. It takes dedication, from both the parent and the child, to be part of a sports team or to develop those new skills. If you sign up for Saturday morning volleyball lessons, be sure that someone can take them there and back week in week out. Don’t let rainy days or the thought of a lie in tempt you into staying home – kids will pick up on subtle cues and often follow by example. Stay positive and remember that with sports, as with most things in life, you get out what you are prepared to put in!
Your own sports influences.
When a child is expected to play one sport or another just because that’s what their parent did when they were a child, there can be pushback. If your child loves football and you do too, that’s great, families all over the world bond through a shared love of sports. But you can’t expect all of your children to love all of the things that you do, and you shouldn’t penalise them for it either. Fencing might not be your personal favourite, but if your child loves it and it gets them active and engaged, then that’s the most important thing.
What counts as success?
We are not all made to be professional wrestlers or olympic swimmers, but the human body, and especially the body of a child, is made to move. Finding the right activity for both the body and for the brain can be painstaking, but over thousands of years of human history we have developed a sport for just about everyone. Remember that success in sports isn’t about being the best, it’s about discovering something that you love to do. Good luck on finding the right sport for your child!
Is your child bored with all the regular sports in offer? Next week Sam reveals five unusual sports that will get your child excited again.
About the Author
Sam Flatman is an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Sport. Pentagon have worked with over 5000 settings to create innovative playgrounds and learning environments for young students. He has been designing playgrounds for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. Sam believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which can be integrated into the new school curriculum. He is currently based in Bristol with his two sons.