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Is my child ready to play sports? by Kacey Hartung


Most of us are very naïve when we first become parents.  We spend hours imagining their personality, temperament, likes and dislikes.  Our dreams are filled with their future activities and talent.

Our heart is in the right place, we want the best for them.  And while we are focused on what could be, our expectations begin to take shape within us.

We wait impatiently through the first year of parenthood when the baby can’t “do” anything.  (This is sometimes hardest on the dads.)  When the baby can finally sit up and start walking, we can’t wait to put a ball in their hands.

The next step is to sign them up for an organized sport and there are so many options!  (That’s a little weird right?  There is an entire industry aimed at the parents of 3 to 5-year-olds who can’t wait to get their kids into a sport.)  How do you know what to pick?

Most parents make the decision for their child, assuming they know what is right.  I admit I fell into this trap as well when I signed my four-year-old daughter up for soccer.  One of her favorite daycare teachers was going to coach a co-ed soccer team for 4 and 5-year-olds.  I thought this was a great way to introduce her to team sports with a man she knew and someone we knew and trusted.

My daughter loved going to practice.  She ran up and down the field, kicked the ball and had fun with her teammates.  On the day of the first game, decked out in her light blue uniform, she chattered the entire car ride.  When we arrived, she skipped over to the team for warm-ups and appeared ready to play.  But, when the whistle blew, she clung to my leg and refused to budge.

What was going on?  I was not prepared for this scenario, it never crossed my mind this could happen. I didn’t expect her to be a super star, but I thought she would at least run around and have fun.  She sat on the sidelines with us watching her team.  Eventually she gathered enough confidence to go out on the field for a couple minutes.  With each game she became more comfortable.  By the end of the season, she was out running around like the other kids.

In hindsight, was she ready to play a sport?  It was a good experience for her, but when we asked if she wanted to play another season, she said no.  (And we did not push her to change her mind.)

The experience with my daughter made me take a step back and examine kids and sports.  When I signed her up, I didn’t give much thought to whether she was ready.  The opportunity presented itself with a trusted coach and I jumped at it because that’s what kids do, right?  I was so excited to sign her up, I didn’t give it a second thought.

If I could do it all over again, I’d do it a little differently.  I’ve spent countless hours at practice and talking to parents in the stands. As a result, I’ve come up with three questions parents should ask themselves:

  • Does the child want to play the sport?

Our kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for, and even at age 4 or 5 they know what they want. Before you sign up on their behalf, ask them if they want to play.  When my son was four, I asked if he wanted to play soccer, to which he shrugged his shoulders and replied “nah”.  Each season we would list a few sports and ask if he wanted to play.  One day, when he was about five-and-a-half, he surprised us by saying yes to t-ball.  They know what they want, listen to them.

  • Why do you want them to play a sport?

What you are hoping they will gain from the experience – Teamwork?  Sportsmanship?  Friendship? Hand-eye coordination?  Is it because you used to play?  Be honest with yourself and be very clear with yourself about why you think playing a sport is important.  It may help to write it down, so you can remind yourself mid-season why you signed up for this in the first place.

  • Should your child play a team sport or a solo sport (i.e. swimming, golf, tennis)?

Many parents don’t consider their child’s personality when choosing a sport. Team sports are great for learning to get along and work together.  Solo sports appeal to kids who feel more comfortable in a one-on-one setting. You want to make sure they are in an environment where they are going to feel supported and have fun.

These questions are very simple but based on the behavior of the parents I’ve seen; they are being overlooked. Have a conversation with your child and ask them if they want to play.  If they are unsure, show them videos online or visit a local park where kids are practicing.  Emphasize the reason to play is to have fun.  Then step back and follow their lead.  Let them be the ultimate decision maker, it will be the first of many to come.

About the Author

KACEY HARTUNG is a blogger and Work-Life Balance and Parenting Coach who believes that parenting does not come naturally, but requires continuous learning, conscious effort and most of all constant support. Using a heart-centered approach, she works with parents of kids of all ages to help them create a clear outline of their priorities and a blueprint of how to implement it in their everyday lives.  Her clients have experienced results that not only bring more ease to the everyday demands of parenting, but also have a ripple effect on their connection with their children.  You can find her at