Parents: Let your kids be little
By: Linda Alberts, Public Relations Coordinator
National Alliance for Youth Sports
I have a confession. I work for an organization that promotes all the marvelous benefits of youth sports – life skills, friendships, fitness and many more – but I have no desire for my own son to jump into the world of organized sports in the near future.
You see, he’s only 2 years old right now. Well, he’ll turn 3 this summer and that seems to be the age some of the youngest of youth sports leagues – especially soccer – start to form. And no matter how cute those little 3- and 4-year-old soccer players are in their tube socks and shin guards, my son won’t be one.
We’re still potty training and that’s way more of a priority right now than playing organized sports. Potty training…talk about a life skill!
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against sports or physical activity. What I am for is giving kids age- and developmentally-appropriate opportunities to have fun. (Disclosure: NAYS has a great program called Start Smart that does just this.)
We often play a basketball-soccer hybrid game in our backyard where you can do whatever you want to get the ball in his mini basketball hoop. He’s running and practicing kicking, catching and throwing. Is there more ball retrieval than actual play? Sure, but he doesn’t care and neither do I. He takes intermissions to pick blades of grass and follow lizards. He is having fun and I don’t see why he needs anything more than free form play right now, or even for the next couple of years.
At some point he will have to learn real sports rules and skills if he wants to play with others and that will be the time we sign him up with a recreational league. (Side note: I’m glad that my local park and rec department is a NAYS Chapter and requires NYSCA training!)
If he doesn’t show interest in playing organized sports until he’s 5, 6 or even older, that’s fine. I’m not worried about how he will compare to the kids that started playing sports at 3 or 4 years old. My son won’t be forever doomed because I kept him out of organized sports until he was out of toddlerhood.
Parents are in too much of a rush to grow their kids up. They don’t want their child to be behind. It’s the new “keeping up with the Joneses.”
Starting a toddler out in organized sports with the sole purpose of giving them an early jump on sports isn’t really for the best interest of the child. It’s so the parents will feel good that they’re giving their child any and every chance to be successful. It’s coming from a good place, yet it’s still an ego-driven decision. And to these parents I say, let your child be little! They will grow up soon enough. You don’t have to push them into it.
||Linda Alberts is the public relations coordinator for the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS). She has an unwavering faith in the power of education and awareness.