Finding a Sport

a group of people paddling on Oahu

by Stephanie Lopes

By 2023, the sports industry in North America is expected to have a value of over 83 billion dollars. That is a huge chunk of change, and you might be thinking your child could possibly be the next Marcus Mariota or Carissa Moore – a professional football player or superstar surfer from Hawaii.

If your child aspires to be a professional or college athlete, the advice is often to start sports young. Even if your child does not make it to the big leagues one day, starting a sport can have a number of social, emotional, and physical benefits, including healthy weight and vision, friendships, self-confidence, sportsmanship, coordination, and fun.

But with so many sports to choose from, which one is right for your child? The following are questions to contemplate to find a sport where your child can truly shine.

children playing basketball outdoors
Playing with friends helps develop strong muscles and bones.

What will be your goals for playing sports?

Before joining a sport, determine what you or your child wants to get out of the experience.

Are you looking to develop healthy habits? It is recommended that school-age children have at least one hour of physical activity every day. While children naturally develop strong muscles and bones as they explore the great outdoors and run, jump, and play with friends, targeted exercise offers that extra exertion for full fitness. Try keiki fitness classes that are available around the island, including at Crossfit in Kakaako and at neighborhood YMCAs.

Do you want to develop social skills through sport? A team sport or a sport done with other children might be a good fit for your child. Try soccer, volleyball, basketball, baseball, or any other array of team sports. Dance or martial arts classes can also be a great way to make friends while learning together. Ballet Hawaii in Honolulu and Waipahu or Quicksets Volleyball Club are two Oahu options to contact.

Once you have set your goals for participation, it will narrow some of your sport search options.

Which athletes or sports movies are your favorites?

For further inspiration about which sport to try, discuss famous athletes with your child.

Do they love Serena Williams and want to give tennis a try? How about Simone Biles and gymnastics? What makes Cristiano Ronaldo a great soccer player or Tom Brady one of the best quarterbacks of all time? Sometimes certain athletes resonate with children, and they might want to try a sport because of that role model.

Pressing play on sports movies can also stimulate discussions. Watch The Sandlot, Air Bud, The Mighty Ducks, Space Jam, or Miracle, and then pose some reflective, age-appropriate questions. How did they work together? How did they overcome challenges? What role would you want to play on the team?

Through discussions around role models or sport movies, you can see what sports might spark your child’s interests and what they might want to try.

a girl above to hit a volleyball over the net
Team sports promote teamwork, communication and decision-making.

What athletic attributes do you want to develop?

Many sports have certain skills in common while different sports develop different mental or physical skills.

Almost all sports will develop certain mental or social skills that transcend the field, court, or stage into the classroom or eventual careers. Studies have shown physical activity correlates to positive academic performance, perhaps because athletes have developed the skills to tackle challenges. Sports also offer the opportunity to build communication, decision-making, teamwork, and time management skills.

There are certain physical skills associated with certain sports: kicking and throwing in soccer, diving, turning, and stroke development in swimming; passing, shooting, and dribbling in basketball, balance, flexibility, and tumbling in gymnastics.

Which skill does your child need to develop or which skills are their strong suits? Answering these questions might help to narrow your sport search further.

three youths practicing their golf swing
Individual sports boosts resilience, confidence, independent thinking, and coping skills.

Do you work well with others?

While team sports, such as basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, and football, are great for generating camaraderie, collaboration, cooperation, and ultimately social skills, individual sports like swimming, surfing, bowling, tennis, golf, badminton, archery, biking, running, gymnastics, and martial arts have different benefits.

In an individual sport, an athlete’s success or disappointment is entirely their own, so resilience and coping skills are directly targeted. When an athlete is on the tennis court trying to decide how she should hit that last ball over the net to score a point, she is practicing independent thinking and developing problem-solving skills. And whether she scores a point or not, she is becoming comfortable in the spotlight – ultimately developing confidence in herself while striving for her personal best.

If you are interested in involving your child in an individual sport, some great organizations to check out are Hawaiian Island Twisters and Gymnastics (HITS) in Honolulu, Pas De Deux dance school in Waipahu, and WikiWiki Swim School.

What will be the time and equipment investment?

If you and your child have come to the agreement that you are going to sign up for martial arts, the next step will be to find a martial arts school and decide which classes fit your schedule.

Try to balance sports and other activities–like school. While encouraging your child to manage his or her time wisely, you do not want him or her to feel overwhelmed or overly stressed. Set a schedule and stick to it. Committing to practice time and homework time, helps to development time management skills.

Also think about what equipment will be necessary. Do you need to purchase special shoes or uniforms? How about balls, bats, or mats? To properly participate in the sport, it is important to have appropriate equipment.

two girls swimming under water
Try to commit to a season of the chosen sport.

Take a trial and then commit to a season.

Which sport did you decide on? If you chose swimming, ask friends or family members for recommendations for swim schools, thinking about your child’s skill level and schedule. Researching on the Internet can also help you to find a sport near you.

Remember: sports should be fun! After trying a sport for a fair amount of time, if your child does not like the sport, let them try something else. Some organizations, like Hawaii Academy in Waipahu, Pearl Harbor, and Honolulu, offer trial lessons for trampoline, tumbling, gymnastics, and ninja training.

Once you have found a sport that suits your child, encourage commitment and resilience. “Keep practicing, and I know you will keep improving.” Your child might become an elite athlete, and if not, they will develop healthy habits and positive skills in the meantime.

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