Whether your kids like soccer, basketball, or prefer swimming laps in the pool, it's important to encourage them to pursue the activities they like best. Kids are more likely to keep up their fitness levels--and even work to improve their skills--if they truly enjoy the sports they play.

One of the best ways to support your children's interest in sports is to encourage them to tryout for a competitive team. Many schools have competitive teams--for soccer, football, basketball, swimming, and more. Being part of a team can boost your child's self-esteem, and help them develop positive attributes, like cooperation and a sense of fair play.

If your children are interested in a competitive sport, it's never too early for them to start training. There are many ways that parents can facilitate this process, from investing in basic equipment to encouraging practice sessions.

First Steps

It may seem counterintuitive for kids to start training for a specific sport before they're actually on a team. However, starting to practice early will increase their chances of being selected in school tryouts.

Before getting into sport-specific training, make sure that your child meets the minimum fitness requirements set out by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC's Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that children and adolescents engage in at least one hour of physical activity each day. This can come in the form of:

  • Aerobic activity, such as brisk walking or running
  • Muscle strengthening, such as gymnastics or push-ups
  • Bone strengthening, such as jumping rope

Another preliminary step is to invest in some basic equipment for your child's sport of choice. It's okay to be conservative with your initial purchases, limiting them to the basics.

For example, if your child is trying out for softball, obtain a bat, ball, and glove. You can hold off on extra accessories, like batting gloves, until after tryouts. You can also save money by finding used sporting equipment at specialized "gently used" sporting goods stores, thrift shops, or garage sales.

Training for Tryouts

Once your children have spent a few weeks building up their general fitness baseline, it's time to get more specific with their training. Whatever sports your child wants to pursue, you can help them work on exercises and drills designed to test their skills.

Again, keep it simple. If your child is trying out for basketball, take a ball down to the local gym or outdoor court, and practice shooting hoops and free throws together. For prospective soccer players, head to a grassy field and coach them to improve their footwork with a soccer ball. If your child's got their sights set on the swim team, take the time to make a few extra trips to your local pool.

Back-Up Plans

But what if, after hours of training, your child doesn't make the team? To reduce the stress of training and trying out, remind your kids that there are other options if they don't make the team this year. Emphasize that the work your kids put into improving their game will make them the star of the intramural team. Or, look into other options for team sports in your area--many community and recreation centers also offers sports leagues for kids. It may also help to remind your kids that they can always try out again next year--and if they keep practicing, they will be even better.

HealthAhead Hint: Keep It in Perspective

Training for a sport doesn't need to be a high-pressure activity. Even if your kids are practicing in the hopes of making a school team, remember to keep the emphasis on fun and fitness. With your help and encouragement, kids can truly enjoy the sports they play--whether they make the team or not. It's important that your children know that you believe in them and their abilities. If you pay attention and nurture their athletic interests, your kids are sure to show improvements over time.