Australia is a sporting nation. We play cricket everywhere: beaches, office corridors, driveways. You’re assigned an AFL team at birth and we rule the pool at the Olympic Games. Naturally, kids are going to be curious about sports because it’s a big part of our culture.
But according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, only six out of 10 children aged between five and 14 years participate in sport outside of school.
If it’s time to investigate team sports for your child, great news – there are so many benefits and it’s an excellent way for them to learn social skills.
Why get kids playing sports?
It’s all about creating good habits early in life. Being active can help children stay at a healthy weight, which is important for overall health. Over the long term, exercise can help reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease and osteoporosis, and it’s also known to improve mental health, reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Other benefits include:
- Reduced risk of obesity
- Better cardiovascular fitness
- Healthy growth
- Improved coordination and balance
- Better sleep
- More confidence
- Improved social skills
- Greater cooperation and leadership
Playing a team sport may give your child a chance to discover skills they might never have known they had otherwise. Participation helps them step outside their comfort zone, which teaches them the benefits of trying new activities and saying ‘yes’ to things, no matter what the outcome. And they can learn about what’s possible with practice and persistence.
Which sport should they try?
The possibilities are endless, so there’s something for everyone. According to 2018 Roy Morgan research, the most popular team sports for kids in Australia are:
Most sporting bodies and local councils support junior programs designed to introduce kids to sports, with a big emphasis on getting involved and having fun. For example, the AFL runs a program called Auskick, where kids are taught the basics of the game. You’ll need to register for these programs, and fees apply. You’ll also need to think about whether the sessions times work with your family routine, so your child can make the most of attending on a weekly or fortnightly basis.
If you’re looking for an option where your child gets to sample different sports on a weekly basis, there are multi-sport programs available. These programs are great because your child will get active while figuring out which sports they like most. Plus, these programs often have lots of exciting team building games, obstacle courses and more. From these sessions you can figure out which sport is the favourite – your child may even have a natural talent – and then pick one to sign up for on a regular basis.
Check the notice board of your local library, read over the council newsletter, or do a quick internet search to explore what sporting programs are available in your area.
Learning to love getting active
How can you teach your kids to get the most from their experience? Lead by example. The best place to start is by making sure you’re getting active during family outings. Take a ball to the park, introduce team games during play time and encourage playing with others. Once you introduce the idea of playing sport it will be less daunting for your child when they get outside their comfort zone.
Sometimes it may take time for your child to warm up to the idea of playing sport, so make sure you support and encourage them each step of the way. Put more emphasis on ‘fun’ over ‘fundamentals’ and show up. Being present makes a huge difference when it comes to your child’s participation, so make sure you can attend as many sessions as possible, cheer from the sidelines and remove distractions like phones and social media.
Give your child an active start by trying out different team sports. The little you do now will go a long way as they get older.