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Your 4-year-old gravitates to gymnastics, your 8-year-old is smitten with soccer and your 11-year-old is fascinated by football. Encourage them to play! But do so with caution. Not every sport is appropriate for every age, so it’s important to select one that is safe and suited to your child.
In fact, 50 percent of boys and 25 percent of girls between ages 8 and 16 play organized sports, yet 70 percent of them drop out by age 13. Why? Because they become discouraged with a game that is inappropriate and frustrating. “Sports need to be fun and well-supervised,” says Barbara Long, MD, a pediatrician at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh who has a specialization in sports medicine.“Don’t expect 6- or 8-year-olds to play organized games. Ever see 8-year-olds play soccer? It’s ‘herd football.’ The kids just follow the ball around. They aren’t yet at a level to strategize team plays.”
Be aware of coordination requirements.“If your young child is discouraged because she can’t set up or return a volleyball, look for another activity or noncompetitive team,” Dr. Long says. Consider these sports and the coordination and skills needed:
In all sports with pre-adolescent children, the emphasis should be placed on having fun and building skills rather than competition. Before puberty, it’s okay for boys and girls to compete against one another, but adolescence is time for gender separation. This is when the gap between weight and strength widens, making coed sports more dangerous.
Get to know the coaches. Both parents and coaches need to make sure that the activity is developmentally appropriate, allows all children to participate, builds skills and is fun. This will help your child succeed on and off the field.
A sports physical is a good idea to ensure your child is physically able to play. The doctor will check the heart and lungs, examine the musculoskeletal system and can provide information about age-appropriate activities.
If you need help finding a physician for your child, call 412-692-7337.
Children's Hospital's main campus is located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. Our main hospital address is:
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
One Children’s Hospital Way
4401 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
In addition to the main hospital, Children's has many convenient locations in other neighborhoods throughout the greater Pittsburgh region.
With myCHP, you can request appointments, review test results, and more.
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Interested in giving to Children's Hospital? Support the hospital by making a donation online, joining our Heroes in Healing monthly donor program, or visiting our site to learn about the other ways you can give back.