Why Can’t My Kids Just Be ‘Casual’ Athletes?

A few years ago my boys, ages 6 and 8, wanted to play basketball. So I signed them up for a rec league in our small town. It was inexpensive and didn’t require too much of a time commitment which was great, especially since my kids know very little about basketball. When I say “very little” I mean they didn’t know the basic rules of basketball and I don’t think they’d ever attempted to dribble a basketball. But it was something they wanted to try, so I signed them up.

At the first practice they were super excited and a little nervous. The kids on their team ranged in skill between no experience or knowledge of basketball (my kids) to kids that consistently hit shots on a regulation size basketball hoop. I was worried that I had waited too long to sign them up and that they would get discouraged at how much better the other kids were at basketball. Thankfully, my boys were not put off by the other kids’ abilities and the coaches did a great job teaching and encouraging all of the players. The boys had a great time, made some new friends, learned new skills and sportsmanship.

Now that my boys are older they are starting to show interest in other sports and I worry that we waited too long. (They are still in elementary school.) Some of their friends have been participating in sports for years and are on traveling competitive teams.  I love that kids are passionate about sports and have families that are dedicated to making their dreams come true. There are so many valuable skills and lessons that can be learn from participating in sports. But I do worry that the intensely competitive nature of youth sports may discourage kids from trying new things. It’s a tough reality that if your child is a casual or recreational level athlete they probably won’t make their middle school or high school sports teams. It seems like parents are signing their kids up for league sports when they are in preschool, these days, so by the time they hit middle school they are running circles around casual players. It can be discouraging for parents who don’t have the time or resources for their child to participate in sports at a competitive level.

I think it’s easy for us to assume that kids are “too old” to start a sport, however I don’t think can ever be “too old” to start something new. My kids may never be professional athletes and they may never participate in competitive league sports but I want to encourage them to always try new things, at any age. Most cities and towns have recreational sports teams that are a great place for beginners to try different sports, at any age.  I don’t want my kids to be discouraged from physical activity because they aren’t the “best”, because that’s not the point of sports. The reasons we play sports is for fun, exercise, sportsmanship and teamwork. I don’t think you can ever be “too old” for sports.

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