Team Players

Follow their lead.
Although you may be eager, it’s crucial to listen to what your child wants rather than pushing your preferences. “A child should never be put on a team against his or her will,” says Engh. Doing so will likely backfire, making them less interested now and later in life.

And it’s not the time to home in on one sport, with visions of pro contracts and scholarships. “This is a time for exploration,” says Dan Doyle, founder of the Institute for International Sport at the University of Rhode Island and coauthor of the Encyclopedia of Sports Parenting: Everything You Need to Guide Your Young Athlete (Moyer Bell, 2008). Of course you should be enthusiastic— but with a firm focus on appropriate reasons for registering: to learn, get exercise and make friends.

If your child isn’t interested, give it time. “Some children aren’t ready for these kinds of activities because their coordination hasn’t caught up with them yet,” says Doyle. “So it’s not anything to get concerned about.” Simply make them aware of the opportunities, and wait for them to tell you they’re ready.

Get in the game.
If your child is ready, sign up! Just make sure you pencil practices and games into your calendar, too. “At the beginning levels of play, teams generally have one or two practices a week that last about an hour, plus a game,” Engh says. “At this age, it’s best for parents to attend every game and practice to encourage and gauge the child’s progress.” Your child may be eager to try several sports—and exploring options is a good idea—but beware of over-scheduling. “A child should have adequate time to recover between activities and should not be committed to an activity every day of the week,” Engh says. “Three to fi ve days a week are more than enough.” If children want to practice in their free time, that should always be encouraged—as long as it’s their idea, Engh adds.