Youth Sports for young kids in America
Target group for this article: Parents of 3-12 years old kids living in USA.
Why to put kids in the Youth Sports?
Physical Activity: If the kids become physically active in young age, they will keep this habit their whole life which in turn brings in lot of physical, mental and social benefits.
Discipline: Every sports have rules players need to follow. Also, players needs to listen to the Coach, Referees. That helps their discipline and fosters playing by rules concept.
Teamwork: Teamwork is a skill which is needed both in personal and professional life. 80-90% for work we do as adult is in a team. All the sports helps team work. Even individual sports like Swimming, Track, Gymnastic, Tennis etc. have team events.
Why not to put kids in Youth Sports?
Many parents put their kids in Youth Sports thinking that they will get college scholarships, they would participate in Olympics, and they would be professional athletes earning millions of dollars.
Some kids would definitely make to very high level and become professional athletes. But, to start with those expectations would lead to tension and disappointments.
You shouldn’t put your kid in Karate thinking that after few weeks your kid will be next Bruce Lee.
What are different kinds of Sports?
One can categorize Sports into various categories.
Individual vs. Team Sports: Soccer, Basketball, Volleyball, Softball, Baseball Football etc. are primary team sports. Swimming, Track, Tennis, Gymnastics etc. are individual sports. But, all the individual sports also have some team aspects to it.
Popular main stream sports vs. specialty sports: Football, Basketball, Baseball, Softball, Swimming, Gymnastic etc. are main stream popular sports. Lot of people play it. There are sports which are specialty sports e.g. Archery, Luge, Curling, Fencing etc.
Middle School, High School, and College Sports: As kids go through Middle School, High School, and College – the coverage of the sports become wider. Middle Schools offer limited choice of Sports e.g. Football (Boys), Basketball (Boys & Girls), Volleyball (Girls), Track (Boys & Girls), Tennis (Boys & Girls), Cross Country (Boys & Girls). The High School choices then expand to more sports e.g. Soft ball, Swimming, Ice Hockey, Golf, Wrestling, and Baseball etc. Then College offer even more choices e.g. Gymnastics, Archery, Rowing etc.
Non-school sports: There are sports which are not in Schools e.g. Karate, Judo, Wusu, Mixed Martial Arts.
When to start kids in Youth Sports?
Many parents in USA start to put kids already in age of 3-4 years old.
Which sports should I put my kids into?
At the early ages of 3-4 years old, it doesn’t really matter what they play. Just get them playing something and see their interest develop and in the process you will also learn all the possibilities.
Check with your local Churches, YMCA and your City Recreational Parks. They probably have some program for kids starting age or 3-4 years old. Lots of kids start with playing toddler Soccer, T-ball etc.
Letting kids learn how to swim in early ages is also a very good idea. Even if later they do not do Swimming as sports, it is important that they are able to Swim at least 50 meters and float in water so that you don’t have to worry about them drowning in pools.
Soccer/Basketball are very good sports to start in early age of 4-5 years old as it involves lot of team work, running, coordination etc.
For Volleyball, you can probably wait till 4-5 Grade so that kids have developed enough upper body strength.
Some kids play Football very early age. I think it is better to wait to at least 4-5 Grade before starting on Football as well. Many kids start Soccer early age and then switch to Soccer when they grow up as most of the Athletic abilities are common.
Baseball, Softball, Baseball, Tennis and several other sports also kids start to play 5-7 years old.
For Baseball, Softball, kids start at the age of 5-6 as Blast Ball where Girls and Boys play together. As they grow older, Boys play Baseball and Girls play Softball.
Swimming, Gymnastic the kids mature very quickly. Many Olympic gymnasts are in their teens. So, it becomes very competitive in young age.
Lot of kids do Karate/Taekwondo when they are young. But, do not expect that they would be Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan with those Lessons. Most of the Karate Dojo’s are run as small business. So, their main motivation is to earn money. Martial arts I think kids can do little bit later or even after they are adult.
Middle School Sports:
Most of the Middle Schools offer limited choice of Sports e.g. Football (Boys), Basketball (Boys & Girls), Volleyball (Girls), Track (Boys & Girls), Tennis (Boys & Girls), Cross Country (Boys & Girls) and Soccer (Boys and Girls)
Middle School athletics start in Grade 7.
I really recommend kids to participate in the Middle School mainly due to Social and Team aspects. It is better for kids to be busy and be associated to a team. In that way they can stay busy and stay out of trouble.
Sports like Track and Cross Country, there are not cuts. No special preparation required. All the kids can participate. If the kids are playing various other sports, they automatically are also preparing for Track and Cross Country.
However all other team sports, there is some kind of cut. If the kid has never played the sports before then, it becomes difficult to make to the team.
So, if your kid is planning to do some Middle School sports, it is better to get them play that sport few seasons before 7th Grade so that it will help them to make the team.
That becomes interesting if your kid is doing Sports competitively which is not a Middle School Sport (e.g. Swimming, Softball, Baseball, Lacrosse, Gymnastics etc.) My recommendation in that case is to put the kid in some Middle School Sport recreationally for few seasons prior to 7th Grade so that they would make the team. It doesn’t matter which team (A, B, C) they make to they will get all the benefits of being in the team.
How much does it cost?
Many youth sports arranged by City Recreational Parks are even free or just charge minimum token amount.
If it is arranged by YMCA, Churches, cost is still minimum to around 50$ for a season of 2-3 months.
City Leagues, YMCA Leagues costs around 80$-100$ per season (3 months).
In recreational level the cost is very less as it is coached by volunteer coaches and they use City and School facilities.
However, when they go to competitive level, the cost shoots up quite high as they need to pay for the professional coaches and private facilities. Whichever sport your kid play competitively (also known as Travel Teams in some cases), you are looking at cost of 3000$ to 5000$ per year.
When do they play competitively?
It depends on Sports. Swimming, Gymnastics etc. becomes competitive quite early. Soccer, Basketball, Softball, Baseball is around age of 10-11.
When to spend money and when not to spend money?
I see lot of parents spending lot of money in the early years with private coaching etc. while kids are still figuring out what they want to do.
My recommendation is not to spend too much money when kids are very young. Just put them in recreational leagues. Go and play with them even if you have never played that sport yourself. You can find lots of instructional videos in YouTube.
You can save and use the money later when they choose what they want to do seriously.
Can my kids do multiple Sports?
In early ages it is recommended to do multiple sports so that kids get chance to play lot of things and see which sports they like the best. Also, physically and mentally kids develop different things by playing different sports.
All the City, YMCA recreational and Middle School Sports are not played year round. They have different seasons
For example Soccer is usually played in spring and fall, Football in Fall, Basketball in Winter and Summer, Softball/baseball in late spring and fall etc. So, kids have chance to play various sports in various times of the year.
Similarly in Middle School also, different sports are played in different time of the year for example Volleyball/Football in fall, Basketball in winter, Track in spring, etc. So, kids can pretty much play all the sports if they want.
However, competitive sports is totally different topic. They play year round and time commitment is very high. So, it is very difficult or impossible to play more than one sport competitively. So, after kids know which Sport they would like to play competitively, they can still play other sports recreationally.
In High School also it is quite difficult to play more than one Sport due to academics and other activities. However, some kids manage to play multiple sports as they are in different seasons. But, most of the kids play only one Sport.
Youth sport is wonderful thing with many advantages. In early ages, it doen’t matter what they play. Just get them playing something. As they grow older, they learn more and you will learn more and you will know which sport they could focus on.
One thing is guaranteed, Playing Youth Sport will have lifelong positive impact on the kids even after they become adults.