How to Choose a Sport for Your Child (Ask Yourself These 4 Things First)


Do you have a budding athlete?  Are you ready to handle the stress that accompanies raising a child who participates in sports?  Well, get ready for what could be a wild adventure as you experience the world of sports with all of the bumps and dips along the way.  The highly competitive “win at all costs” attitude produces emotional stress that is difficult to handle but is prevalent in high school and college sports, not to mention little league teams and junior cheerleading squads.

Parents need to be proactive when choosing which sports their children should join.  Research the sporting opportunities available first.  Try to match the particular sport with the child’s personality style, athletic ability and interest level.  Here are 4 things I considered when choosing sports in which my kids participated so we could enjoy the journey.

1.  Are they interested? My sons both took an interest in tennis at an early age, but it was the younger son, who started it the summer of his 9th year, who showed the most interest.  He loved it.  Playing with an inexpensive racquet with some of his closest friends, we were able to provide him some group lessons and he spent enjoyable time as he practiced the basics.  The tennis group lessons led to including private lessons on a weekly basis, year round.  The participation in local tournaments in junior high school expanded to more regional and national tournaments in high school.  This required more travel, more lessons, and more racquets.  The interest never waned until his senior year in high school when he knew where he wanted to attend college and the need to be identified as a tennis player was not his only identifying factor.  (He also discovered along the way that although he is extremely proficient in tennis, there are a lot of other players just as good and better.)

So I advise parents to take time to learn together what is entailed with the sport being considered.  Do some research about the sport on the web and find some books to review.  You need to take it beyond how the sport is played.

2.  Cost. Participating in sports is not cheap.  I found out that tennis racquets can be quite expensive and tennis shoes wear out quickly and need to be replaced.  Lessons aren’t cheap and traveling to tournaments became an added expense.  The level of cost is something that you, as parents, need to research early on, so that you are not blindsided later down the road.

3.  Personality. Considering your child’s personality is very important when choosing sports.  Some sports, such as soccer, are definitely team sports without the pressures of individual accomplishments.  But tennis is an individual sport in which you compete on the court alone.  No teammates, except in doubles.  Our son also participated in the youth baseball program for a few years,  but as he developed, he found himself wanting to be a part of every play and found himself preferring the catching or pitching positions as opposed to the outfield or infield positions.  This was the beginning of an understanding of my son’s personality.  When my son participated in tennis, he had to compete alone on the court and figure out his strategy to best his opponents.  He had to learn to handle the stress that accompanies the competitive arena.  So ask yourself, “Which type of sport best suits your child’s personality?”

(Note: Your child’s coach has an enormous impact on how your kid will perceive different aspects of the sport and the type of attitude your child will develop toward it.  Remember that you are not the one participating in the sport.  Watch your own ego level and don’t get caught up in the fact that if your child does well that somehow this is a reflection on your ability.)

4. Define Success. Winning isn’t everything.  Yet for some, the definition of success is synonymous with winning.  When channeling your child into sporting activities, you might find greater satisfaction with the experience if you both take the time to first determine how you will define “success.”  How will your child know he or she is successful?  This definition needs to be embraced by you and your child.  Keep in mind that everyone defines success differently, depending on needs and circumstances. Your definition of success will change as your child matures and grows in athleticism.  Being successful in a sport may be defined as having your child master a set of skills that is age-appropriate and ability-level appropriate.  A child may participate well in a sports event and still lose but find success because of the skills that were mastered and utilized for a first time.

There are differing perspectives about children in sports: some parents say that children should participate in many sports, while other parents believe that children should concentrate on one or maybe two sports to develop proficiency.  You and your child need to consider all of the aspects of sports participation to craft a reasonable definition of success.  As your child grows, revisit the definition from time to time while keeping the current definition of success in the forefront of the ongoing dialogue for a healthy perspective and a rewarding sports experience.


Ann Gatty, a life coach, inforpreneur, author and organizational strategist. She has taught in classrooms and organizational training sessions and now works as a life coach for professional and personal development. Dr. Gatty has developed curriculum for college courses, organizational training and personal development. From her work and personal experiences, she finds a continuous need among women, of all walks of life, to find a life balance between professional goals and personal responsibilities. Ann Gatty hosts a website,, which offers stress management strategies, life skill development, and a means of finding your true passion in life. She has also authored Discovering God’s Recipe for a Healthy Body, Heart and Soul. Ann Gatty earned a Ph.D. in Instruction and Learning from the University of Pittsburgh, School of Education. She is married, the mother of two young adult boys, and shares her home with her husband, two Great Danes and a Bassett Hound.

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