Why Your Child Should Try New Sports
Posted 10/25/2016 by UHBlog
If your young runner repeatedly experiences shin splints and your aspiring tennis star constantly battles shoulder pain, don’t let them throw in the towel. Instead, encourage them to try a new sport.
“I see a lot of overuse injuries in my clinic due to sports specialization,” says sports medicine specialist Mary Solomon, DO. “When playing the same sport over and over again, repetitive activity causes wear and tear on the tendons, muscles and – especially in children – on the growing bones. Choosing a variety of activities is helpful.”
Switching sports – from, say, running to swimming or soccer to basketball – also provides other physical and developmental benefits. According to Dr. Solomon, these include:
- Developing stronger muscles in different muscles groups
- Strengthening bones
- Increasing eye-hand coordination
- Improving balance
- Boosting self-esteem – “Children begin to see themselves as well-rounded individuals as opposed to only identifying as a soccer athlete or a hockey athlete,” she says.
- Learning to resolve conflict – “Leaning on other people to help improve their technique on the field can be applied to other aspects of life,” Dr. Solomon says. “They are held accountable and learn responsibility as they continue to develop skills. Playing on different teams allows them to do that with other individuals who may not be as like-minded.”
- Promoting fun, which, in turn, increases the chance they will carry healthy fitness habits into adulthood. This may stave off serious medical conditions, such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular issues.
There are many reasons young people stop playing sports, Dr. Solomon acknowledges, but she believes all children benefit from participating in some type of physical activity, whether or not it’s within the framework of an organized league. Even if you didn’t grow up playing sports, encourage your children by emphasizing the joy of fitness and keeping expectations in check. Stay focused on today (Is my child having fun and getting exercise?) rather than the future (Will my child win a football scholarship?).
“Try to enjoy where your child is in his or her development now,” Dr. Solomon says. “The real motivation of sports should be to have fun, be healthy and be active.”
Youth travel leagues are prevalent, but they can be expensive, time-consuming and geared toward more highly skilled athletes. Dr. Solomon suggests checking out CYO leagues, the YMCA or a sports-development class at a community center. These are often more affordable, less time-consuming and less competitive than travel leagues.
If organized sports isn’t on your family’s radar, your children can still reap the benefits of mixing up their physical activities. Engage them in a game of catch or Frisbee. Walk together in the park. Encourage them to play outside with friends.
“The goal is to interact with someone else and do something involving physical activity that improves musculoskeletal health and cardiovascular health in an environment that is safe,” Dr. Solomon says.
Mary Solomon, DO is a sports medicine specialist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. You can request an appointment with Dr. Solomon or any other doctor online.