What Happened to Kids Playing Youth Sports Just for Fun?


Recently, it seems like more children are “specializing” in one sport. Travel teams and club youth sports are becoming more prevalent, and their popularity is increasing at younger ages. When I think back to my school-aged years, I remember trying multiple different sports, and each season brought a new activity. Now, many young children are playing one sport or participating in one activity year-round—they play the same sport for school, the park district, travel teams/clubs, and training camps. While this specialization may be great for some children and can produce stand-out athletes, participation in multiple sports and activities offers many advantages—especially when kids are just beginning to explore and discover their interests. Here, we’re sharing six benefits of playing multiple sports for kids.

1. Decrease the risk of burnout

First and foremost, specialization can lead to burnout and can decrease the enjoyment that a child may find with that sport. I recently spoke with an athlete who played soccer year-round since her elementary school days. When it was time to go to college, she no longer wanted to keep playing; however, she felt that she owed it to her parents to explore a college athletic scholarship. I’m not saying that this is guaranteed, but while children are young, it’s a great opportunity to explore multiple things before high schools may require increased specialization. Participation in multiple different sports can help your child explore a diversity of interests and keep physical activity exciting and stimulating. 

2. Exercise different muscle groups

As a physical therapist, I am continuously thinking of what muscles are being targeted in different activities. Different sports target different muscles, and by participating in many things, children can be sure to balance all of their muscle groups. For example, running is commonly quad heavy, and the glutes and core often go by the wayside. However, complementing running with dance or swimming can help target those other muscle groups. 

Source: @tinygirlgang

3. Decrease the risk for overuse and injury

When a child plays one sport year-round, those primary muscle groups become overworked, and this very commonly leads to injury. Performing the same activity on the same surface (for example, field, court, path, etc.) can lead to pain and injuries. It’s vital to train your muscles in different ways—it’s why marathon runners must cross train and strength train if they want to safely and comfortably make it to race day.

4. Engage with various team dynamics

Exposing your child to different activities exposes them to diverse team dynamics. Some may be more competitive and others may be more relaxed. Doing both can help your child explore what they are looking for in sports and activities. It can also help them explore their own teammate and leadership roles—with different team dynamics, they can explore how their own role changes with different teams.

5. Have exposure to different leadership and coaching styles

With different team dynamics come different leadership and coaching styles. Exposing your child to a variety of coaches can provide them with more adult figures in their lives. Hopefully, these adult figures are role models for your child. However, even if the coach isn’t the most positive role model, it may help your child recognize what they look for in leaders or strive to be a leader themselves. Some coaches are more demanding, which may help your child thrive, while other coaches could be more comforting, which may create a better environment for others. By exposing your child to multiple activities—including those outside of sports teams—they can find the right environment for them. 

youth sports
Source: RDNE Stock Project | Pexels

6. Discover multiple friend groups and outlets

In a world where it can often be hard for a child to find their place, a variety of activities allows them to dip their toes into different friend groups. It can allow your child multiple opportunities to find where they feel most comfortable and most accepted. Additionally, it can allow them to have different outlets when one may not be going so well. I loved that my parents encouraged me to try multiple things, so that I had different places to put my energy. For example, when high school friendships got tricky, as most can, I had friends from summer camp and different outside sports to whom I could turn. Multi-sport participation can provide your child with different social supports. 

Multi-sport athletics may not be for everyone, and specialization may be something more suited for your own child. However, when a child is young and has the opportunity to explore different paths, participation in a variety of activities offers many benefits and opportunities to find new passions and interests.

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Source link: https://theeverymom.com/youth-sports-just-for-fun/ by Katherine Ballesta-Rosen at theeverymom.com