Sports can teach kids many valuable life lessons, whether they excel at a particular sport or not. If your child isn’t interested in, or doesn’t have access to, team sports he can still shine all by himself.
Some kids just aren’t team-players — not because they aren’t cooperative or athletic but often because they perform best alone. Fortunately, there are many options for the individual athlete, some of which aren’t typically on the sports radar but are still highly competitive.
The benefits of sports
Parents around the world spend copious amounts of time, energy and money on their children’s sports “careers.” Often starting from a young age, kids are involved in a variety of sports, most often team sports like baseball, basketball, football, lacrosse, etc. While these sports certainly teach kids to cooperate with teammates and work towards a goal as a group, individual sports offer their own unique benefits. Kids who participate in individual sports learn to be self-reliant, self-motivated and accountable for their actions to a deeper degree. Individual sports also allow a child who is typically introverted or on the shy side to express themselves through athletics, whereas team sports can be intimidating.
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There are many individual sports from which to choose. Some of the more common sports are track and field, swimming, tennis, cross-country and cycling. There are many schools, clubs and recreation districts offering these sports and many of them have a team aspect to them so kids can really get the best of both worlds. For instance, a swimming race is judged on individual performance but relay races allow athletes to work together and tennis allows kids to play singles and/or doubles.
Off the beaten path
Aside from the common individual sports, there are a number of more unique options such as triathlon, shooting sports, equestrian events and martial arts. Triathlons are gaining in popularity among the younger generations. Youth membership in USA Triathlon increased by over 20 percent between 2011 and 2012 and the sport continues to explode across the country. Shooting sports include air rifle competitions, trap and skeet shooting and archery (to name a few). “Archery is about skill, not relying on a team to get ahead,” says Kimberlee, a mom from Arizona whose daughter, Madison, started archery when she was 5. “Madison experienced great growth in her strength and skill. There is a place for team sports and she will be joining other sports in the next year where she will be on a team. However, we do feel that the skills she learned in archery laid a strong foundation.” Equestrian events have a reputation for being extremely expensive but organizations like 4-H and the American Family Rodeo Association combat that theory. Martial arts like jiu jitsu and tae kwon do not only boost self-confidence but provide a valuable life skill in self-defense.
Read about how you can match extracurricular activities to your child’s personality >>
The take away
Sports can provide fantastic opportunities for kids to develop physical and mental strength, build relationships and learn valuable lessons but individual sports can be just as beneficial. As an added bonus, children can really tap into their personal interests and explore a wide range of activities.