There are so many benefits to joining sports for children; social camaraderie, physical development, and discipline training. Many of our featured Masters swimmers and Olympic athletes started their sports careers at an early age and have enjoyed the benefits of swimming their whole lives. But what age should your child start participating in sports? Here's some things to consider before you sign them up for a swimming club.
Early start doesn't equal success
Many parents think that the sooner they put their kids into sports, or really any activity, the quicker they will master it and become a superstar. But studies from leading sports psychologists show that there is no link between the age a child starts organized sports and their level of success in their chosen sport. There are plenty of examples of athletes who became "late-bloomers" after starting their sports careers later than their peers.
And starting early can sometimes subject your child to burnout. Unfortunately, burnout happens more often than some parents are willing to share or acknowledge, pushing their children to undesirable limits. If you push your child too early, they may lose interest in the sport by their teen years and choose another activity altogether. To make sure your child doesn't experience burnout, check in with them and see how they're enjoying their swimming club. And listen for their honest responses. If they love it, keep them enrolled another year, but if they give any hint of dissatisfaction, find another activity for them that suits their personality and social skills.
Is the swimming club age-appropriate?
Another element to consider when deciding on a swimming club for your child is the age that the club caters to and the developmental level of your child. If your child is younger, you want to choose a club that has less structure and focuses on the play and fun elements of organized sports. On the other hand, if your child is pre-teen or teenage, a swim club with more structure is appropriate. This age is used to more structure and can handle the demands of a bit more focus before they head into a high school program.
You'll also want to research the coaches and the style of coaching at your child's new swim club. A good coach will respect the social, psychological, and physical development of different age groups and design a swim program around their needs.
Consider the whole family
When you sign your child up for a swimming club, you're making a commitment as a family. You'll want to consider things like:
- What other siblings are participating in organized activities and do any siblings belong to the same swim club?
- Who will be responsible for transportation to and from swim practice and events?
- Will my child's school schedule and homework demands suffer?
- Are we able to make changes as a family with our nutrition habits to support our child's success?
- What does the coach expect from me as a parent to support my child's participation throughout the season?
Asking and answering these important questions is a great first step in determining whether or not your child, and the family, is ready to join a swimming club. When everyone is engaged and on the same page, it will be much easier to ensure a successful swim season!