You’re sitting around the dinner table and the talk turns to your sister’s uncle’s brother’s daughter who just committed to play D1 soccer at WVU. Your 6 year old daughter looks up at you and says “Hey Mommy, I want to play soccer too”. You’re excited because she has shown an interest in something without being prompted. But before you can finish your happy dance, your husband says “I think you would really enjoy Little League. I played when I was young and really had fun”. You watch as the smile on your daughter’s face turns into something else – not quite sure what. Is she thinking Little League might be a good idea or is she wondering why her Daddy thinks her idea isn’t so great? Maybe she doesn’t even understand what soccer is. Who knows at this point.
Mom’s view: Daughter has found something she wants to try. Let’s sign her up tonight! We can’t wait until tomorrow because she might change her mind or all the teams might be full or we might miss the deadline. So many potential problems.
Dad’s view: I’m raising an athlete!!! I don’t know anything about soccer but I could really help out if she played baseball.
Now neither of these views are innately inaccurate. Both are grounded in kindness of heart and a desire to help your child, but the problem is they are conflicting to a young child. What to do, what to do? The great thing about this problem is that there are no wrong answers. Many sports run year round, even at this early age. It’s possible to engage your daughter in multiple sports over the course of the year. Plus, there’s no reason to assume that in order for your child to be successful they must follow in the athletic footsteps of one of their parents.
Though not all coaches at the youth level are created equal, many are quite good. Almost all require advanced coach’s training. This means that it is less important for the parent to take on the role of the coach in a sport they have previously participated in. The coach is there to do just that…teach and coach. You, as the parent, will never have a better opportunity to sit back and enjoy your young child’s athletic options.
Let her play both, heck, let her play more than 2. She will eventually find out what she likes, what she is good at and where the like-minded kids are, and then she will gravitate toward that sport.
Stay out of it at this young age, because before you know it you will be knee deep in making important athletic decisions that may have long-lasting implications. But this isn’t the time. Now is the time to enjoy the early learning that many different types of sports can offer. So put on your sunscreen, pop open a soccer chair and a bottle of water, and watch her run up and down the field…or around the diamond. Whatever puts a smile on her face.