How to Help Kids Fall in Love With Playing Sports

By: Aaron Locks, NAofA Founder and CEO

Parents often seek advice on how to introduce their young children to sports and instill a love for playing. Rather than solely focusing on the potential for scholarships, many parents now acknowledge the mental, physical, and overall benefits that sports participation brings to their children.

With over four decades of experience in the camp and sports instruction industry, and as a parent whose children grew up immersed in various sports, I can confidently say that youth sports are unparalleled in teaching life skills.

I believe that sports provide an invaluable platform for children to learn essential life lessons such as resilience, teamwork, and the importance of effort. However, it’s crucial to balance this with opportunities for success. Many psychologists agree that while failure is a natural part of growth and development, it should be accompanied by ample chances for achievement and recognition. This balanced approach fosters a healthy mindset towards challenges and setbacks, encouraging children to persevere and strive for improvement while also celebrating their successes along the way.

From my experience, I highly recommend that parents kickstart their children’s sports journey with a camp or clinic before diving into league play. Even in recreational leagues, children can encounter challenges of success, failure, and pressure before fully understanding the fundamentals or rules of the game.

When children join a league, club, or travel team, they often have just a few weeks, or even hours, of practice before their first competition. Our goal is for children to develop confidence, enjoy playing, and have fun. This enjoyment motivates them to put in the hard work needed to enhance their skills.

Studies show that children who learn the fundamentals in a positive and supportive environment at a young age are more likely to stay committed to sports. Therefore, I strongly advocate for every child to participate in a clinic or camp before committing to a league or team.

Clinics typically offer 3 to 5 hours of instruction, while camps provide 15 to 30 hours of learning and game exposure. This extensive exposure helps children grasp the basics and ignite a passion for the sport before delving into competitive matches.

By guiding children to learn and love the game early on, we can steer them away from becoming part of the statistics of those who quit after a short time. Instead, they’ll continue playing for many years, reaping the multitude of benefits that sports involvement offers.

It’s straightforward in my view: enroll your kids in camps before they join a league. I hope your children have a positive experience like mine did.