Youth Sports - how young is too young?

As I completely outfit my three-year-old from head to toe in his soccer gear and think he is the cutest thing on Earth, it really dawns on me how old he's getting.  So like any modern-day mom, I promptly post his picture on Facebook and wait for the compliments to pour in.

The first "friend" response is - Boy, you really start your kids young don't you?  Hmmm, I did have to think about that one.  Is he too young to start soccer?   My other two kids were taking soccer at the same exact time and place, and they had a class for his age, so it really made so much sense to just enroll my youngest... basically so I didn't have to entertain him for the whole hour.
When I first started having kids, I thought they really didn't need exposure to any formal sports - they would just naturally choose what they wanted to do when they were old enough.  In a way it really worked out well for my oldest who is deeply involved in swimming, and her abilities naturally evolved as she got older.  However, I do hear from time to time, "How come you never gave me speed training?"  "Why didn't you put me into__(insert sport)_, earlier?"  I guess the grass is always greener.
Now that I've had a few years under my belt, I've changed a bit and have really tried to expose my kids to all kinds of sports.  But I also look for sports and coaches that lean toward skill acquisition and not just winning.  At the early ages, I've found some of the better sports tend to be soccer, gymnastics/dance, martial arts and swimming.  Primarily because they have skills that can be accomplished at an early age, and they seem to be able to learn without getting frustrated.
I know I'll get some arguments, but basketball (unless you have very low hoops), football, hockey, t-ball and tennis are difficult skills for the younger kids to grasp and get any sense of accomplishment. Now I'm talking very young.  But I believe once they get to an age where they're asking to try something over and over again, give it a shot!  
There are obvious exceptions out there and phenoms happening at every age - look at Tiger Woods.  I just hope most of us realize those are so far and few between, that we should have very low expectations and just enjoy how adorable they look all suited up.

Leave a comment