There is an expression: jack of all trades, master of none. This applies quite nicely to childhood sport. Many leading children’s physical activity organizations (like Active for Life and Sport for Life) recommend playing a variety of sports at a young age; and for great reasons. Trying a lot of different activities helps kids:
- learn to play fairly and have team spirit
- find movements and actions they enjoy doing (this is called intrinsic motivation)
- get used to moving around in various environments like arenas, grass fields, gymnasiums
- learn how to manage risk, think strategically, and problem solve
- develop their fundamental movement skills, which are the basic sport building blocks. Fundamental movement skills include fine motor skills (small movements like picking up a ball) and gross motor skills (bigger movements like jumping). Growing these skills lead to physical literacy which helps kids feel more confident and competent in their ability to play
- minimize injuries from repetitive movements caused by overusing the same muscles or joints (by playing a single sport)
- avoid getting burnt out on doing the same activity
Canada's Physical Activity Guidelines recommend at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day for children. Trying out many kinds of sports and activities is a fun way to achieve this. Here’s how you can encourage your children:
- make a range of sporting equipment (like soccer balls, bicycle, hockey nets) available to them
- support all activities that they show interest in (vs. the ones that you like or prefer)
- encourage them to try out various school and after-school sports and activities
- allow time for unstructured play. That is, let kids play and have their own experiences. This is how they find out what games and movements they like best
Worried your child will miss out on specializing one sport? Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky played baseball, lacrosse, and tennis as a child, while soccer superstar Christine Sinclair played basketball and baseball. Both of these world class athletes didn’t specialize early on and went on to have great sporting careers.
If you have questions on kids’ sports, give the Physical Activity Line a shout (8-1-1). We work with all ages!
Canadian Sport for Life: Long Term Athlete Development