There's no doubt that team sports offer an array of benefits to kids. Team sports provide opportunities for kids to develop friendships, work as a team, problem solve, and learn good sportsmanship.
But, team sports aren't for everyone. Many kids, particularly those who are introverted or shy, lack interest in or struggle with team sports. When kids aren't into team sports, parents often get caught up in an endless battle–with their kids kicking and screaming all the way to every practice and game.
So the question is, should parents push their unenthused kids into team sports if their kids are adamant they want no part of it? Encouraging kids to participate in some form of extracurricular activity is undoubtedly a good idea. Such activities can provide kids valuable learning opportunities while also keeping them fit. But, if your child is introverted, social or group experiences can be particularly stressful and mentally exhausting.
What can you do to help your child get in some fitness and develop motor skills while still allowing your child to be true to himself or herself? There are plenty of sports and physical activities to choose from that aren't as mentally taxing yet they provide kids plenty of benefits.
Martial arts. This sport is divided into the categories of wrestling, striking, grappling, and weaponry. Many disciplines use a combination of these categories, so it's a good idea to look into several disciplines. Then, let your child help decide which style to try. Some of the most popular forms include judo, Tai-Chi, karate, kickboxing, wrestling, Taekwondo, Aikido, and Jiu-Jitsu. Through martial arts, in addition to learning self-defense, kids learn self-discipline and how to fine-tune their motor skills.
Gymnastics. The most popular form of gymnastics is artistic, which includes floor exercise, balance beam, vault, uneven bars, still rings, and parallel bars. There's also rhythmic, which combines dance and gymnastics moves to music. Aerobic gymnastics is yet another form. Gymnastics improves strength, flexibility, balance, and cognitive functioning, among other benefits.
Ice Skating. Speed skating is one form of ice skating your child can learn. But there's also figure skating, which includes single skating, pair skating, ice dancing, and synchronized skating. This sport provides a cardiovascular workout while improving flexibility, balance, and endurance. It's also a great way to develop leg muscles.
Skateboarding. This solo sport has numerous forms including, but not limited to slalom, freestyle, street, off-road, vert, and park. Skateboarding offers many benefits including overall fitness, endurance, precision, and as many a skateboarder will attest, increased pain tolerance.
Bicycling. This is an excellent form of exercise that improves strength, coordination, and flexibility. There are several forms of bicycling that might appeal to your child such as distance endurance cycling, mountain biking, and stunt riding.
Archery. Although archery might appear to be a passive sport, it offers several benefits including improving balance, coordination, upper body strength, and mental focus. Also, during competitions, archers get plenty of exercise as they often walk up to five miles.
Dance. Many people argue dance isn't a sport. They are wrong. Dance offers many of the same benefits as other sports. Dancing builds self-confidence, provides exercise, and develops coordination, balance, stamina, and strength. Forms of dance include tap, ballet, jazz, modern, hip-hop, swing, Latin, and Irish step dance.
Swimming and diving. Either of these might appeal to your introverted child. Swimming builds strength and endurance while improving cardiovascular fitness. Diving improves agility; strengthens the upper body, particularly the arms; and improves mental focus.
Running. As straightforward as running may sound, there are several forms from which your child can choose. There's adventure running, cross country, road, mountain, track and field, races, and marathon. Whatever the form, it's an excellent cardiovascular workout. It also builds endurance, releases stress, and is a powerful antidepressant.
Skiing. Downhill or cross-country skiing, as well as water skiing, improve endurance while strengthening the lower body and improving balance. The drawback is its feasibility depending on your proximity to snow and hills or water.
Climbing. If you have a tree climber on your hands, rock climbing might be the perfect sport. As dangerous as it may sound, according to a study that appeared in the Journal of Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, specific forms of climbing are less risky than several other sports such as hiking, sledding, and snowboarding. Climbing is an excellent cardiovascular workout, it tones and strengthens muscles, and improves mental focus.
Inline skating. Although rollerblading first gained popularity with hockey, it's been enjoyed equally as a leisure or solo sport. Inline skating offers nearly as much cardio and muscle building benefits as running but without so much impact on the joints. ■