(NewsUSA) – When it comes to improving academic performance, boosting self-esteem and teaching social skills, few things beat team sports. Sports give kids the opportunity to get attention and respect, and to use the natural skills that come with youth, like speed and coordination.
According to one survey of 2,185 children conducted by The Women’s Sports Foundation and Harris Interactive, kids who played sports or who participated in activities like frisbee, camping and hiking felt healthier and more confident about their bodies than those who did not. Other studies demonstrate that children active in sports perform better in school and are less likely to use drugs as young adults.
Of course, sports can have a downside. Overly competitive leagues, discouraging coaches and injuries from unsafe practices can quickly turn kids away from sports. So how can you make sure that your child has a positive experience? Here are some tips:
* Make sure that your child is mature enough to participate. In general, kids aren’t equipped for the rules and cooperation required in team sports until age six or seven. But each child develops differently. Don’t push children if they’re not ready.
* Make sure that the league or coach emphasizes fun. If you ask children why they want to play a sport, they’ll probably say that they want to have fun or make friends. No matter their sport of choice, make sure that your child’s enjoying him or herself.
* Don’t stress winning over everything else. Extreme competitiveness overrides any sportsmanship your child would otherwise learn. Focus on personal markers of success, not the league championship.
You can reward your child for playing a sport even if their league does not. PlaqueMaker Plus (www.plaquemakerplus.com) allows you to print your child’s photo in a sports-shaped frame. You can also order your own trophies and present them for a job well done, whether that means making the winning hit or simply putting in a good effort.
* Don’t force your child to specialize too soon. Few kids are going to get sports scholarships -; instead of trying to turn your child into a baseball or basketball star, let them try out a variety of sports. Some children are never going to enjoy sports. Instead of forcing kids into an activity that they don’t like, find another physical activity, such as track, cycling or hiking, that they can enjoy.