Should My Kids Play Sports?



We are getting to the ages (five for him, three for her) when sports and lessons and activities become a part of life.  Gus's friends are playing soccer, Greta's are taking dance.  Mine, they play in the yard.

Let me start by saying that I was never one for organized sports.  One season of gymnastics under my belt, I was totally cool until they wanted me to do a front flip on the trampoline.  I think I was eight, maybe?  Then there was this whole performance thing we were supposed to do at the end of the season and I totally skipped that. (Introvert for life.)  But then in middle school I decided I wanted to try out for soccer.  Everyone else "trying out" had already been playing town soccer forever.  Needless to say, I didn't make the team.  In fact, I don't think I ever had a chance because I wasn't already playing.  Starting in seventh grade was just too late.

Other than swimming lessons, we have not yet made our way into the world of organized activities and rushing out to games on Saturday mornings.  Sometimes I think I'm ready to get them involved in something but then I decide that time at home is just as good.  In fact, we own soccer cleats and shin guards and everything, ready to go, but Gus doesn't express any interest in soccer when we mention it.  He's not big on activities where he doesn't know anyone, even though it's very likely he's going to know someone in kindergarten-only town soccer.  But without the guarantee of a familiar face, he's not into it.  He's very much like his mother in that respect.  We've talked about putting Greta into a toddler gymnastics program, but who knows if she'd even like it?  She's three, and it's $300 for the spring session.  That's a lot of money for playtime.  We've tossed around violin lessons, too, because the earlier you start, the better.

Between the cost of registration and gear, the will they/won't they guessing game, and the schedules (games at 9am on Saturday? UGH.) I don't feel like pressuring them into joining up, but then I wonder if I'm doing my kids a disservice by not putting them into a sport.  They would learn teamwork and new skills and confidence, maybe.  They would get to be with other kids their age and would most likely have fun.  So is it selfish of me to not push them into it because of those negative aspects, or does it really not matter if they don't really care either?

In warmer weather they are happy to play in the yard.  We have the sandbox, we have kids next door, and we have space to run.  They are outside most of every day in the summer, making up their own games and getting dirty.  They play at their leisure and are pretty happy with that.

Did you do organized activities when you were little and/or are your kids doing activities now?  How would you decide what to start with and when?  Is it key for their development, or are they just as good off using their imagination?

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  1. Obviously, I'm not a parent, so I can't speak from that end. I started playing organized sports when I was five-- basketball and softball. I'm not entirely sure if I chose to play, or if my parents signed me up. I think my dad might have signed me up for softball (he loves baseball and played for quite some time himself), and then once I liked that they signed me up for basketball. I know it costs a lot of money for stuff like that, but I do think it's worth taking a chance. You'll never know if they like the activities if they don't try. And as an introvert, Gus might enjoy an activity once he starts even if it makes him a little nervous to think about at first-- that's how I was at least! My parents were always super supportive no matter what I did, and if even when I decided to finally quit basketball the summer before my senior year, they let me make that choice. I think that's the most important thing of all-- if they truly don't have fun once they're doing it, then it's ok for them to move on to something else.

  2. I guess I should start by saying we don't have kids, but we were kids once.

    My husband tells me all the time about how he was forced to play baseball when he was younger, and hated every minute of it. He couldn't wait until it was his choice to play so he could quit. As for me? My parents let me choose what activities to try. I was braver + more of an extrovert then, so I tried a bit of everything and loved every moment of it.

    The way I look at it, and would do with any kids we may have in the future, is make sure they have some form of interaction with their peers. Like playtime outside regularly. If they have that and show no interest in sports, don't force it on them. If they aren't sure about the sports, you can always go check some practices out and see if it excites them first.

  3. I'm not a parent yet, but I definitely had an activity-filled childhood. I did dance and gymnastics and soccer and t-ball and piano and girl scouts. I don't remember whether I requested to be in those activities or whether my mom just signed me up. I did have a thing for ballerinas when little so I'm guessing that was my request. I quit girl scouts as soon as possible. I grumbled about piano lessons, but actually grew to love playing piano, if not the actual lessons themselves. The sports were things I think I liked better when younger and then as I got older/they got more competitive I liked them less. I did stick with soccer all through high school though. I remember when I wanted to quit softball, my mom asked if I was sure, and made me finish out the season, but then I was free to do what I wanted the next year.

    We did also have a large field by our house where we'd play made-up games with neighborhood kids, and climb trees and all that.

    That's all to say... I don't know. I think if they show actual interest in something, definitely let them try it out. And then if they genuinely don't like it, don't make them stick with it. But if they aren't really showing interest yet, I don't know. For organized team sports like soccer or football, it definitely helps to start early. But if they don't that doesn't mean they'll miss out on sports completely either. Things like track or cross country or volleyball or even tennis or basketball you don't need to start as early. Those start later in middle school where they might have more of an opinion as to whether they're interested.

  4. Paige @ Little NostalgiaJanuary 20, 2015 at 5:19 PM

    No kids here, either, but I'll chime in about my own childhood. I didn't do any sports until I was way older (sixth grade, I think?), but I started Girl Scouts in first grade and piano lessons in third. For both of those I definitely showed an interest and asked to be signed up, but I think the sport-y thing was kind of an experiment by my dad. Haha. I remember liking the mix of structured activities once or twice a week, and then having the rest of my afternoons free to just play with my friends/sister.

    I do think there's a misguided notion these days that if kids don't start something right out of the womb, it's already too late. (Example: my sis-in-law wondered if she should put the 3-year-old nephew in Chinese lessons so that other kids aren't "way ahead of him" when he goes to kindergarten. WTF? No.) If Gus and Greta are happy to play at home these days, I think it's fine. They're still pretty young and I don't think kids are missing out on anything by using their imaginations.

  5. I think a balance of both is good! I have a 7 year old and 4 year old. My son is in his second year of wrestling. They practice twice a week and we choose which weekend tournaments we want to go to (so far only 3 in those 2 years). My daughter is on her second year of dance. She has class once a week and a recital at the end of the year. Both are activities they seem to enjoy, although my youngest has had a couple times where she didn't want to dance, and we'll let them continue as long as they want to. I think it very much depends on the individual child. We have plenty of free time leftover in the week for imaginative play and other unstructured activities. I did look into gymnastics for my daughter but wow was I shocked at the cost! The local ballet/tap class for her age was much more affordable! I've suggested soccer to my oldest and he wasn't interested in either! Unless they are interested I wouldn't press it. It won't be any fun for either of you! But I'd encourage anything they were interested in and encourage sticking with it even if there's a bad day here and there!

  6. Thanks for your comments! So far, no interest in anything in particular, but then I wonder if it's just because they don't know any better? LOL! They're really good with free play so I don't think I'll press the issue and just enjoy our time together.

  7. Yea, see, I can see if you're older and want to do something, but nowadays it seems like you must be in something before you even know if you like it or not, so there's this wacky pressure to get them involved. I think it's just the local area messing with my head. We'll save some money and keep them here, where they're happy anyway.

  8. I took ballet lessons when I was around 5 or 6 then it was Girl Scouts then it was Gymnastics then it was Piano. I really enjoyed all of them and I did all of them for a little bit. The only activity that really stuck with me was piano. I loved it and went into high school taking music classes and learning to compose. It was nice being able to try different activities. I think I stopped liking the ballet and gymnastics is because I'm not competitive enough. I'm a pretty shy person but eventually got over it when I was able to do different things. I think it might be a good idea to try to find some sort of weekend workshop and see if they like something. Maybe they just need a little push.

  9. I like the idea of them being able to try just something- everything is sooooo competitive and serious around here. It might be good to see if I can try to find a weekend workshop or something like that!