I feel that sports are a great addition to the maturation process for any child capable of playing. But where a child plays is equally as important as the sport itself.
Some leagues are geared to be competitive. Catholic school sports (in my area) are the first that come to mind-especially in the middle school years. Their goal is to win each game and play the best players in order to achieve their means. Systems are taught but all players aren’t “developed.” The players that coaches concentrate on are the ones again to achieve the final goal of winning. It seems to me the development of a player is more in the hands of the parents. This was true when I was young and I haven’t seen evidence to the contrary.
Knowing my children really needed more work on the development end, I enlisted them to play at the YMCA. My 4 year old had never played a sport and soccer seemed like it would be a good place to start. The beginning of the season was awfully rough (he stared more at airplanes than soccer balls) but he progressed as the season went along. His coaches spent lots of time with him and the progress was evident. In my opinion, he flourished because he received an equal amount of playing time as the best players on the team.
My 7 year old participated in flag football at the YMCA and the results were even clearer. He played every position because the team could only play 5 players at a time and there were only 7 players on the team. As the season went along, he really liked playing quarterback on offense and cornerback on defense. If he would have been in a competitive league, who knows if he would have had the opportunity to try those positions?
For young athletes who are really good at a sport, competitive leagues certainly have their benefits. Typically, they have better athletes. Participating against better athletes means a child can learn the nuances of the sport even faster. Obviously, down the line, scholarships may be involved as well.
My best advice to parents is this. Know what type of league your child is involved in and keep your finger on the pulse as to whether the league is serving your child’s needs. If that’s the case, you probably have a good match. If not, look around and you may find another league worth checking out. Trust me when I say that they are not all the same.
I will be back with another post on Friday. I will be discussing what happened in a competitive league in Tennessee certain to raise some eyebrows. Best wishes!