Sports in Lower School

Through the many open houses I have both hosted and attended, the question often comes up about after school sports for Lower School (elementary) students.

When looking for sports and/or activities for our children we need to keep in mind what we are looking for in a league or organization, and maybe more importantly, what your child wants to do and/or is capable of.  When asking schools about sports, we need to keep both of these in mind.  What do we want out of this league for our child?  Enhanced skills and high levels of competition?  Or socialization and having fun?

A simple answer to this is that most elementary or lower school programs will be focused on the latter, socialization and fun.  Many schools do not focus on winning and being more competitive until the middle school years, while others do not focus on this until high school.  If you are looking for a highly competitive league in the younger grades, the best bet is to look for a competitive league in your area outside of the school teams.  Club, travel, and select teams will be much more focused on what you are looking for.   The school teams will encourage improvement, but probably not to the level of what the club teams will do.

Below I will break down recommendations for each age group:

Toddlers and young children ages 2 – 5 are still learning gross motor skills; running, throwing, kicking, etc.  Additionally, most of the children this age have a very short attention span, and besides the pure desire to “win” struggle to follow the in and outs of the game for its full length.  Many children of this age do not fully understand the rules of the game anyway.  So, a “lighter” league or even just skill camps may be better for your child.  Additionally, there is no evidence that supports starting children at this age in a sport will give them any advantage over their peers that did not play that sport at this young age.  However, there are more competitive leagues at this age, but probably will not be a school league.

Children ages 6 – 9 are a wonderful age to start organized sports.  Their interest, attention spans, and throwing, running, and kicking abilities improve.  However, that being said, it is very easy to put to much pressure on a child at this age, especially if a parent or sibling is very interested in success at sports.    Both team and individual competition can teach children many wonderful life skills that will help them as they grow into adults.

Children ages 10 and up, begin to have a much more mature view of sports and the world.  They are able to handle much more complex sports and competitions, recalling techniques and strategies when necessary.  However, many schools and clubs become much more competitive at this age so playing time and being placed at the correct level for their skills becomes much more of an issue.

So again, it all depends on what you as a parent want for your child and making sure the school or club team matches those expectations.  I would not recommend trying to change the school or club teams culture or goals after joining the team.  Decide what you want first and then find the right team.

Finally, the most important aspect to keep in mind.  Let your child have fun and enjoy the competition, their friends, and life skills they are learning.