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It's not easy to determine how early to start children in organized sports. Children of the same age vary considerably in their physical and psychological maturation, and there is no practical method of measuring maturity. Assuming the child has shown interest, five or six is the generally accepted earliest starting age for organized team sports. At the early ages participation should be limited to sports that involve a lot of physical activity and encourage the development of major motor muscles.

Children in grades 1 - 4 can benefit most from games that are modified to meet their needs and abilities. Play and fun are more important to this age group than highly structured sports that emphasize the outcome rather than the process. Parents and coaches are usually the ones concerned about winning and losing. When helping your child select a sport, keep balance in mind. Encourage your children to try many sports and activities when young and not to think of specializing or playing competitively until they reach middle school. Make sure a balance also occurs between adult organized activities and free playtime. Children need time to just be kids and to play with other kids without a set of rules or adult involvement.

The most important decisions to make, are which youth sports organizations and which coaches are best for your child. Make sure that you take the time to find out about the league, its leaders and coaches. Better yet, get involved and volunteer to coach. Participating in sports is a healthy way, both physically and socially, for your children to channel their youthful energy in a positive direction. Make sure your children's first experience encourages them to begin a lifelong interest in physical activities and good health.

There are many other options besides team sports available to a child who wants to participate in sports. Parents should also encourage their children to become involved in individual and lifetime sports such as bowling, golf, swimming, tennis, gymnastics and martial arts. You can find information about these sports by visiting the facilities or through the yellow pages of the phone book.

Note: We are frequently asked for information related to the origin of this article. Time to document this conveniently online. It was written by Frank Martin, the founder of the Kids Sports Network. I can't give you an exact date it was first printed but it first appeared online in 1999 as you can see on the Way Back Machine.

Before that it was one article in a print publication "Youth Sports in San Antonio" produced for two years by WOAI and sent to SBC employees who were moving to San Antonio in 1993.


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