Youth sports participation is such a key time for development in any child’s life. Regardless the activity, sports and recreational sports in particular have such a profound impact on molding your child’s future, so every parent should encourage their child’s participation early in life, and hopefully your child will continue their participation throughout their youth and maybe even into their adult life.
There are many options for sports programs in the community ranging from city leagues to competitive club leagues, but here is some advice for choosing the right program for your child and your family, as well as some other key benefits to sports participation for someone looking to get their child involved in a program.
Recreational leagues are typically a great place for an introductory player or family to get involved and test the waters to see how they may like a particular activity. These leagues typically have volunteer coaches, with lower quality instruction, but people are involved for their love of the game, not a paycheck, and so that’s a positive place for kids to learn about teamwork and sportsmanship, and basic fundamentals of the game. These lessons can be learned in just about any level of competition whether recreational or competitive, but even more so on the Rec level. Rec leagues usually come at a lower cost as well, but the trade off here is that lack in training and perhaps less amenities that someone may see like in a club program.
Club sports programs, also known as travel team or tournament teams, are a place where athletes really take their passion and drive to the next level. Certified, staff coaches who operate based on national standards can really take an athlete to the next level in their athletic development and get kids and families serious about sports. These programs require a much more substantial investment by families both financially and often times even in their families routines. Multiple nights practicing, weekends away from home for tournaments, and now the culture seems to be shifting as these programs run close to year around. These club programs are a great place for kids to develop discipline, develop active lifestyles and healthy habits to support this higher level of competition and performance expected out of them. The downside though is that this culture often loses focus of the true purpose of sport and that’s to have fun. Not to say these programs aren’t fun, but when competition and winning is a primary focus, having fun often gets pushed aside. Coaches are expected to win, parents expect their kids to perform and to win and to have a future in sports. But is there an option above the lower quality Rec leagues, and the highly competitive Club programs?
There are developmental programs that exist, such as our programs at Arizona Sports Complex and Future Stars who have a Recreational Foundation, but higher level coaches with a set curriculum built by experts to deliver training to take players skills to the next level, but also focus on the fun and camaraderie that sports are all about. In developmental programs that are a sort of hybrid between Rec and Club, where there is more emphasis on the lessons that are learned in sports, and develop character of athletes. We feel that this aspect of sports is so often overlooked, but is the core to a positive sports experience for any athlete and their family. Local competition, having fun, making friends, learning healthy habits and active lifestyle, building self-esteem, learning discipline, these are just a few of the many benefits that sports participation should be about, and we are working to change that culture in the sports community, and bring it back to why sports exist in the first place.
So when choosing an activity and a program for your child and ultimately for your family to be involved, think about what values are most important to you. This will be an opportunity to mold your child into the adult they will one day become, and the experiences they have in sports may have a direct impact that future. They may not always have the medals or trophies on their shelf in their room, but they will think about those memories for a lifetime.
Written by: Justin Sayban
Justin Sayban is General Manager of Arizona Sports Complex in Glendale, Arizona. Justin first started his career in recreational sports back in 2001 at the age of 14 at a local roller hockey rink, and because of his positive experiences throughout his time working in the industry, and enjoying participation in sports throughout his life, Justin has made it his mission to provide quality programs of sports and other activities to improve the the lives of the participants and their community.