This article originally appeared in the May 7, 2009 issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Team sports are effective for many facets of child development, including self-esteem, coordination, general fitness, and learning to work with other kids and adults. For some kids, however, team sports are “a swing and a miss.”
Not every child has to join a team, and with enough other activities, kids can be fit without them. If your child is interested in team sports but hasn’t developed the necessary physical skills, you can help by practicing at home. Whether shooting baskets, playing catch, or going for a jog together, you will give your child an opportunity to build skills and fitness in a safe environment. Keep your expectations realistic — most kids don't become Olympic medalists or get sports scholarships. Let your child know the goal is to be fit and have fun.
Some kids just haven't found the right sport. Maybe a child who doesn't have the hand-eye coordination for baseball has the drive and the build to be a swimmer, a runner, or a cyclist. The idea of an individual sport also can be more appealing to some kids who like to go it alone.
Even children who once said they hated sports might learn to like them as their skills improve or they find the right sport or a league. Even if they never form that bond to organized sports, there is plenty a child can do to get the 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day recommended by authorities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When left to their own devices, kids can get plenty of exercise doing things like shooting hoops, riding bikes, playing wiffleball, playing tag, jumping rope or dancing. The key is to get your child moving for at least one hour a day.
You'll need to be patient if your child has difficulty choosing and sticking to an activity. It often takes several tries before kids find one that feels like the right fit. But when something clicks, you'll be glad you invested the time and effort. For your child, it's one big step toward developing active habits that can last a lifetime.
Dr. Bob Wilmott is Chief of Pediatrics at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center and is a Professor of Pediatric Medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. If you have a question about your child’s health, go to the “Ask Dr. Bob” section of the Cardinal Glennon Web site at www.cardinalglennon.com.