It’s good to have kids involved in sports. But is your child too young to play hockey?
By Christine Ramirez
With all the concern these days trying to get children off their smartphones and video-game consoles and into healthier alternatives, sports are a natural solution. But along with those good intentions, unfortunately, many parents enroll their children in sports when they’re far too young to play.
We at CrossIceHockey.com believe it’s never too young for anyone to play the coolest game on the planet. But to help parents decide what’s best for their child, here are some pros and cons.
How Young Is Too Young?
These days you can sign up your toddler for just about every sport—even rugby (it’s true). The thing is, at ages 2 to 5 children are just learning to master their motor skills and basic movements. Obviously, at this lifestage they are likely too young for organized sports. Young children often lack the focus required for goal-oriented sports like hockey. In addition, focusing on the score can send the wrong message to kids in their formative years.
Most experts would agree that for the very young, parents should skip the sports and stick to playground activities. Sadly, too many kids don’t get to play outside much anymore. Perhaps this is why countless parents rush to sign their kids up for sports without giving much thought to their developmental needs.
It’s important to allow young children to play without adult interference. This helps them resolve conflicts on their own. They also learn how to form teams and deal with those individuals who tend to be a bit difficult.
Conversely, let’s not lose sight of the fact that—at some point—it’s also important to introduce your child to team sports. It teaches them the value of working with others toward a common goal; instills respect for rules; fosters leadership; and most especially, engenders commitment. And we all know how much emphasis the sport of hockey places on each of those.
But that may not be the best thing for a young child. Starting too young could lead to burnout. According to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who take up a single sport at a younger age run a higher risk of injury, along with the increased chance that they will give up and walk away from that sport.
The AAP also found that children who play a multitude of sports are more likely to remain active as teenagers, compared to those who stick with one sport. For the very young child, other sports that may be more suitable can be swimming and/or gymnastics.
On the positive side, sports can help improve physical wellbeing while lowering the risk of obesity and other health issues. They can help ease anxiety and depression, and bolster a more positive self-image.
If your child expresses a desire to be involved in sports, be sure to ask them why. Is it from a genuine wish to participate? Is it borne out of a sense of pressure or need for belonging? For example, if a child’s siblings are all involved in sports, does the child feel compelled to declare they want to play sports as well?
Similarly, a child may express a desire to play the same sport as an older sibling. Is this a result of a true love of that sport, or a need to be on a par—or even compete with their sibling?
Here’s an often-overlooked issue that can influence many a parent’s decision to sign their child up for a particular sport: As a parent, you must ask yourself this question: Is it actually your child’s desire to play a sport—or is it yours?
Parents should try to analyze and understand why their child wants to play sports. If they are stuck on one in particular, offer up alternatives. And always encourage them to try different sports so they are better able to determine for themselves which sport is right for them.
The bottom line: To help you decide whether your child is old enough and ready to play sports, they should possess the physical, mental, and social skills to meet the demands of that particular sport. And no doubt hockey emphasizes each of them!