Thursday, February 28, 2008

Age Appropriate Sports — by Sister Megan

I have been interested in sports for most of my life. I found out in middle school that I was good at running — I enjoyed running and competing and continued to do it through high school and college. I had been involved in running for so long and loved it so much that I didn't want it to be over once college was done. And I was lucky, I got a job as a track and cross country coach for the local high school where I attended college. I loved it. When we finished college and moved to California I got a job at the YMCA teaching the youth sport classes. I am now trying to get back into shape so that I can compete again. My goal is to compete in a Triathlon in May.

Here I am competing in the Steeple Chase when I was in College.

I have taught and coached sports to children of all ages ranging from 18 months to High School. When I'm teaching sport classes the biggest question parents asked was, "When is my child ready for...?" Sometimes the question came from parents wanting to put their kids in a higher age class in an attempt to advance their skills more quickly. In my opinion that didn't always work out best for the child. Here are a few age appropriate suggestions involving sports:

18 months to 3 years

I taught a mommy and me class for kids this age. It was a mini-gym class so it involved "circle time" where we would sing a variety of songs. The songs ranged from the ones we all know like
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, to more involved jumping around songs. Then the kids along with their moms would do an activity that worked on different skills, like hand eye coordination or colors, etc. This type of class is perfect for 2 year olds. The 18 month kids mostly still played on their own. By the time they hit 3 they were ready to move on to a different kind of class.

3 to 5 year olds
This was the next age group I taught. There were 3 different classes — soccer, t-ball, and basketball. It was an indoor class which is good for this age. 3 to 5 year olds are distracted much more easily outside, and it is harder to get their attention. 3 year olds are still not into a lot of structure, and are not good at lining up yet. So for 3 years olds, look for classes that focus on the fun side of the sport and not learning rules and technique. Make sure that the teacher is flexible with different ages, ask if you can sit in and watch a class.

Or. Go ahead and wait a year and take your 3 year old to a park and kick the ball there with them.
This is just as effective and at this age, your child will respond better to you than a stranger.

4 and 5 year olds do a lot better with following directions, and are just plain older so it is easier for them to do more things. 4 years old is a great time to start your child in a sport class. Make sure you like the teacher, and your child does too.

6 to 8 year olds

When I taught this age group I learned that within those 2 years is a big ability gap. I had to change teaching styles depending on the age that I had most of. Kids in this age range are also a lot more rambunctious than the younger classes. This is a time when you can really teach the kids the game. They understand things better and are able to play the game as opposed to just learning skills. I always had the beginning of class dedicated to working on skills, then the last half we were able to play the game. The game was their favorite part. When I had older kids I could let them play, and just be a referee. If the kids were a little younger I had to teach while they played.

6 to 8 years old is a good time to sign up for leagues. Find a league that will allow each child a chance to play and do your best to be a part of it. Often, leagues will want volunteers for the team coaches. Step up and try it out — your kids will have more fun if you are involved. If you are looking for a class that will help their technique, find one that is full of kids the same age.

If you want your girls to be involved in sports make sure there are other girls in the classes. Girls this age don't want to have a boy as a partner. Also girls tend to respond much more emotionally when the game isn't going their way. Make sure that the teacher handles those situations well. Those emotional scenes are times that could scare your girls away from sports. You don't want someone to smash their self esteem — at this age it's great if they think they are awesome at everything.

9-14 year olds

This age group I have less experience with than the rest. What I do know is that this is when a kid should really start exploring a variety of different sports. This is when they will find what they are good at, and what they like.
Middle School is a fragile time for all kids. They want to please people, and are very impressionable, and are very much influenced by their peers. I feel that this is not the appropriate time to do year round sports, of the same sport. They can very easily get burned out. This is the time that I got involved in sports when I was a kid. I remember wanting to do my best because it made my coaches and my parents happy.

Once they get into middle school they can usually join teams at school.
Like I said before, this is the time for them to try lots of sports — and learn about good sportsmanship. Good sportsmanship can be a difficult concept for kids and it can't be taught in a day, but it is as important as any athletic skill they'll learn. One thing that worked for me as a coach was goal setting with the kids. You could help your kids make athletic goals that are realistic, and help them understand what it takes to accomplish them. At this age the biggest thing that you can do for your kids is support their choices in sports, and encourage them not to give up.

This is the team I coached. That is my baby in the middle. They were great kids!
High School
This is a great age to coach. It was my favorite. The kids are still very impressionable and thrive on doing well and getting acknowledged for their accomplishments. For their first two years in high school it is still good to try all different sports. When I coached track we encouraged the kids to try as many events as they wanted. Once your child is a junior in high school they should know what they are good at. At this age it is good to specialize in one or two sports.

As a parent of a high school athlete, the best thing you can do is support them and attend their games or meets whenever possible. My parents were not able to make it to a lot of meets. But when they did I performed a lot better, mostly because I could hear my dad cheering over everyone else.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for a while now and just wanted to say that I love, love, love this post! I was very involved in sports when I was a child and coach and teach children now. I think it is SO important that the parents not just sign thier kids up and drop them off, but be a part in the coaching (life and sport) themselves. Great job expaining it all! :)

Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 12:59:00 PM EST  
Blogger Teachin' this mommy new tricks! said...

Good for you with your goal. My husband does marathons and I promised him that I would run a race with marathon, but a 5k or something. So we have begon the training :) Good luck with you marathon!!!!

Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 1:19:00 PM EST  
Blogger teamkc said...

That is great! I only swam as a child, but 8 years ago I added running/jogging to it. Which naturally leads into triathlon. Good for you! Tris are so much fun - I am not a competitive person, but enjoy the sociality of tris and the comradarie that is felt! I have even completed 6 1/2 marathons and a full marathon since doing tris - you will be amazed at how many other goals you will set once you finish your first tri...beware: tris are addicting! Good luck!

Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 1:32:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Super Zoe said...

GREAT POST! I have taught school and worked with kids at a every level, and agree with everything! (I would also add that 6-8 year old boys don't much want a girl for a partner, either.)

I loved working with high school track kids. Loved it. And the reason I loved sports? My parents loved sports, too. They participated, coached, watched. It was a given that I would always be active.

PS: Nice steeplechase snap. Very CHARIOTS OF FIRE.

Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 1:39:00 PM EST  
Blogger jennifer.auroradesign said...

I agree with your points theoretically. Unfortunately, modern suburban reality is totally different. By middle school you cannot "try" out sports. The school and rec teams are filled with children that have been wrestling, running, swimming, playing hockey, soccer, football, cheerleading, gymnastics, basketball, baseball, softball or whatever--since they were toddlers.

In our district that leaves archery, volleyball, and rowing. I'm thrilled that my daughter has found rowing. But...what if she wanted to "try" something else?

It is a sad, sad thing.

Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 1:42:00 PM EST  
Blogger Megan said...

Jennifer I know what you mean. That is what it is like here in Orange County. But I have never faced an area like that, I'm sure I will if we stay here. Good Luck.

Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 2:05:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jan said...

What a helpful guide! I'm saving it to my reference folder. My daughter is only six months but we're thinking about taking her to a water class at the Y sometime before she's one.

Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 11:32:00 PM EST  
Blogger Leilani said...

Oh this is so helpful! I've been wondering what to do with my boys, who are athletic, at ages 3 and 5. Thank you!

Friday, February 29, 2008 at 9:30:00 AM EST  
Blogger go boo boo said...

Great post! Thanks for the good tips. I have starred this for future reference (which I know I will need!).

Sunday, March 2, 2008 at 12:50:00 PM EST  

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