Waiting to Start Sports at Age Five, Better Chance Your Child Will Thrive
Formal introduction of organized sports should begin at age 5 at the earliest.
Simple skills such as throwing or kicking a ball are part of normal toddler development. However, children this young are not ready for more complex tasks like proper throwing or kicking technique. All play at this age should be fun and spontaneous with minimal organization.
I highly recommend that all pre-school and early school--aged children learn basic movements skills such as balancing, tumbling, rolling, and jumping. No matter what activity is selected later in life, command of these fundamental tasks will enhance athletic ability and safety.
Why wait until age five for organized sports?
Most five year-old children have developed somewhat of an attention span to listen to adult teachers, work with other children, and follow simple multi-step commands. They also can learn a task in one situation (school) and repeat it in a new situation (home). All these reasons explain why children start kindergarten at age five. These capabilities will also translate to a better learning experience with the main emphasis on fun and learning of the basic sport skills.
Start off with other healthy sport habits:
- Allow a child to explore a variety of organized activities, and do not forget the importance of free play.
- Even at this young of an age, remember that kids should who participate in more hours of organized sport per week than their age in years have a higher risk of injury.
- Thus, five year olds should not exceed five hours per week of organized sport and better yet should have at least ten hours (twice that number) of unstructured free play.
- In the early years of organized sport, there should be no competition (keeping score or standings) as competition is so complex it may interfere with learning skills.
- Repeat as many times as necessary: there should be no competition.
Contrary to the beliefs of many parents and coaches, an early start or early success in sports is not consistently correlated with success in later years. Thus, the key to five year-olds is to teach proper technique and focus on the basics. At this young age, the winning percentage should not be based on any measure of wins and losses, but rather on how much fun the children have and how many want to play again the next season.
For more expert tips on starting your child in sports or for any pediatric sports medicine issues, call the office (714-974-2220) for an appointment with a pediatric sports medicine specialist.