Joining sports teams are often part of the idealized version of being a kid in America. But not every child takes naturally to youth soccer or Little League baseball. So before you sign your kid up for a new sports team, here are five ideas from parents about how to get kids active.
1. Skill doesn’t matter as much as participation
Ryan wanted to run a one-mile race. His dad was pretty convinced Ryan couldn’t do it. After all, Ryan never practiced running, and he hated physical activity. Ryan’s dad was doubtful up until Ryan jogged across the finish line. As Ryan’s dad says, “It’s all about determination and proving to yourself, above all else, that you are good enough and that you can do anything you put your mind to.” When it comes down to it, the thing that matters most in youth sports is participation.
2. Teaching a child to love sports doesn’t have to start with…sports
Julian once hated football. He was completely disinterested in throwing balls or watching games. But one day Julian’s dad mentioned a Fantasy Football league. Julian was intrigued by all the player stats, and he loved being able to cheer on his dad’s players in real-life football games. Soon enough, Julian wanted to play catch in the backyard. Then he was running football plays with his sister. Now he’s a football fanatic. As Julian’s mom says, “You never know which aspect of an activity will be the one that harnesses a child’s enthusiasm.” Sometimes the best way to teach a kid to love sports is by taking the sports part out of the equation.
3. Parents need to be role models (Yes, this means you)
Whitney never loved physical activity. While her husband runs every morning, exercise just doesn’t come that naturally to Whitney. But did you know that kids with active parents are 5.8 times more likely to be active than kids with inactive parents? If your own health isn’t enough to motivate you to be active, think about your kids’ health. As Whitney says, “it’s my responsibility to model good behavior for my children.” Remember, your job as role model includes physical activity too.
4. It’s okay to shift goals halfway through the season
Jason didn’t take naturally to baseball, the way his father hoped he would. He’d complain and throw tantrums on the way to practice, and struggled at finding the motivation to swing his baseball bat hard enough to even hit the ball. Jason’s dad was at a loss about how to inspire Jason to participate. Until playing baseball became a lesson in commitment instead of a lesson in baseball. The goal shifted halfway through the season, and as his dad says, “Jason learned that it’s not about how good you are. It’s all about the fact that you showed up and persevered, despite the difficulties.” Just because getting active was the point at the start of the season, it doesn’t have to be your end goal.
5. Never give up on getting your kids active
At the end of the day, you never know what will be the turning point that helps your kids get active. Cyndi had struggled for years to keep her three girls healthy. Ultimately the family’s pediatrician recommended that the two older girls attend a summer health camp where they could learn about exercise, proper meal portions and making physical activity fun. It was an uphill battle at first, but finally the girls got inspired and excited about the family’s commitment to be more active. As Cyndi says, at first “the girls weren’t too happy about it, but they went along with us. We didn’t give them much choice!” Thanks to Cyndi’s determination, her family has figured out how to take weight into their own hands.
Now it’s your turn. How do you think parents can help their kids be successful at youth sports and getting active?
By Nina Gannes, the Zamzee blog
Nina Gannes is Content & Social Media Manager at Zamzee. Zamzee is a game that gets kids moving with a meter that measures activity and a website that makes moving fun. Kids using Zamzee track their activity, level up, take challenges and earn rewards for movement. To find out more visit http://www.zamzee.com.