Identifying your Child’s Ideal Sport
As parents, it seems like the time we spend changing diapers and washing bottles is transformed overnight to shuttling our kids to various sporting events, watching them play, and maybe even contributing as a coach or other volunteer. There’s soccer and dance class in the spring that eventually gives way to swimming and martial arts in the summer, replaced by a few other activities in the fall and winter, and on, and on, and on. During this time, we see our young athlete’s attention wax and wane, new activities are added to the list, and eventually there is not enough time to participate in everything that tickles the fancy of the eager youngster. We think to ourselves “if only we can figure out for which one sport our child is best suited, we can channel all of that energy into a long-term activity that will bring happiness, wonderful achievements, and who knows, maybe even a scholarship!
“The Talent Myth”
If you read “The Talent Myth” on Mind For Sports, you already know that the idea of “born” swimmers, golfers, baseball players, etc. is largely a myth. Every world class athlete had to devote thousands of hours and perhaps millions of repetitions to achieve their elite level of talent. What may be innate, however, is the child’s interest in a particular activity. For it is only when they truly love the sport that they will find the energy and will to devote to practice, skill development, and overcoming adversity.
How do we identify the Ideal Sport
So as parents, how do we identify that ideal activity? The secret is to quietly and unobtrusively observe your child. What does he or she choose to do during completely unstructured time? When they have access to any toy in the playroom or any piece of sporting equipment in the garage, what do they select? What is the content of their dreams? Who do they pretend to be in their fantasies? If you sit quietly and just observe, your child will take you right to his or her ideal activity or activities. Then, you nurture that love and interest with all of the other ideas presented on mindforsports.com. You positively reinforce your child. You help them focus on what they can control. You teach him or her to manage fear and anxiety. And most of all, you let your youngster have fun! Allow your child to “play” with the sport, occasionally doing things that are unorthodox or don’t seem to have any functional value (as long as it is safe). As a child, I recall arriving early to a major league baseball game, just in time to watch several of the players involved in what looked like a football game with a baseball! One player was throwing “bombs” halfway across the outfield to another player who caught it without a mitt. Those big kids were just enjoying themselves with a baseball and field of grass before returning to the task of a professional sport. They were doing what they loved.
As a final note, be prepared for the possibility that through this observation you may learn that your child’s true passion is not a sport. That is perfectly fine. Given how many adults there are in the world who are still searching for their true calling or passion, there is no greater gift you can give to your child than to help them find that passion, fully nurture it, and watch them grow and flourish!