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READY TO PLAY: How to know when your child is ready for organized sports

Trevor really (really really) wants to sign up for soccer. Stephanie wants to play baseball  just like David Ortiz. (She’s five.) Are they too young? Will they have fun? How and when do you know they’re ready?

Physical activity is good for children of all ages. Many children find participating in organized sports — being part of a soccer team or taking gymnastics lessons — to be a fun way to keep active. To get the most benefit out of a sport, children need certain skills. Otherwise, they may get frustrated and not want to play at all.
Learning basic skills such as throwing, running and jumping is a normal process that most children go through. They learn each skill in little steps. Some children learn faster than others. By the time they are three to five years old, most children have learned some of these skills. To play organized sports, kids need to learn how to put these skills together — for example, how to run and throw at the same time. That doesn’t happen until they are about six years old.
Sports can be changed to make it easier for children to play at their level. This can be done by:
• Using smaller equipment.
• Changing positions often (for example, the catcher becomes a fielder for a while).
• Making games and practices shorter.
• Making the game fun so kids want to keep playing.
To learn different skills, children need to play different sports. To know if your child is ready to play a sport, you need to know if he or she has the different skills needed. The chart on the next page may be helpful. It shows the skills that children of different ages usually have and what sport they can start to play.
Children should start participating in organized sports when they have the needed skills to play the sport and when they want to play a certain sport. Children should be encouraged to play sports that they like, but they should play a few different sports at first and not just one sport, which may lead to injuries. Parents and coaches can help by making sure that each child is ready to play the sport and by making the sport fun so that children can be more active and healthy.

Source: CPS Paediatric Sports and Exercise Medicine Section – www.caringforkids.cps.ca

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