How to Make Your Child’s First Structured Sports Experience a Successful One

Wondering whether it’s time to sign your child up for their first sports league or class? Here’s what you need to ensure your toddler’s sports experience goes swimmingly (or whatever their respective sport or activity is ingly).

Know that they don’t actually need to start playing sports as a toddler. While many programs start at 18 months, that doesn’t mean it’s a good age to start. While stories of professional athletes starting their sport in diapers are popular, there’s a lot more athletes that started playing their respective sport in elementary or junior high.  Generally at this age your preschooler is not going to learn an athletic skill that you are unable to teach them yourself. Sports programs can be great though for introducing kids to different sports and active equipment, getting kids to learn to follow directions, learning new games to play, socializing and ensuring that your house doesn’t get torn down during the winter months.

If you’ve settled on signing your child up for an activity or just want to browse through and see what sport and activities are available, your local community or recreation centre are good places to check out. Calgary’s Child also has a guide of classes and programs and Sport Calgary has a list of most of the sports that are offered in Calgary.

Once you have an idea of what programs might work for your child look at the program times. Make sure that you’ll still be able to make the program when you factor in traffic and getting your child ready. If programs are around meal times or nap times try to change your child’s schedule a few weeks in advance. Also keep in mind that preschool programs are short usually spanning a half hour to forty five minutes so you likely don’t want to be commuting too long or constantly coming in late for a half hour program.

For some programs you’ll have a choice of an unparented or parented program. If your child hasn’t been in daycare and hasn’t been in any other programs before it’s best to start with a parented program. You may also want to consider a parented program if you find your child is really clingy after daycare.

Another thing to look for is how the session or league runs until. Generally for preschool programs they should be under 10 weeks long. While your toddler may say that they love a sport, they can quickly change their minds. If a child doesn’t like what they are doing, making them go for another few months seems like eons to them. 6-7 weeks are generally enough for kids to get a taste of a sport and make some progression. Switching things up is also a good way to make sure that your child gets exposed to lots of different types of movement.

Before the class or league starts do a trial run. Try taking your child to the pool, ice rink or gym before the class if you can, or at least have them try on their equipment or apparel needed before and explain to them what will be happening.

Once class has started be prepared for what your child is doing to look nothing like a sport. Kids that age generally can’t grasp game play and don’t have the coordination or attention span to learn proper technique. Try not to worry about your child’s progress as long as they are leaving happy most of the time.


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