Your child wants to join his or her friends in playing school sports. Great!

Participating in sports and other physical activity can contribute significantly to children’s physical, emotional, and social development, boosting their potential to do well in school, says Butler University Professor of Physical Education Mindy Welch.

But which sports program is right for your child?

“Families should evaluate a program, both prior to and periodically during participation,” said Welch, who served on a National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) outreach task force. “Start with these questions from NASPE.”

Organizational Leadership

  • Does the program have a written philosophy or mission statement? Is it consistent with your values and goals?
  • How are the programs leaders (coaches and officials) selected, trained and supervised?

    Does the program have an established communication/education plan to address costs, expectations, scheduling, etc.? “Before competition begins,” Welch said, “programs should let families know about pay-to-play and travel fees, transportation, awards and incentives, and playing time and other issues that could cause conflicts later.”

Safety

  • Are facilities, equipment and playing conditions developmentally and age appropriate? “For example, children ages 6-8 generally don’t have the motor skills and physical development to use high school or college level regulation basketballs,” Welch said.
  • Are the facilities, equipment and playing conditions maintained for safety?

  • Do coaches and other leaders have sufficient first aid and other safety certifications?

Readiness for Participation

  • Is your child’s interest in fun and competition consistent with the other children in the program?

  • Are your child’s age, ability and development consistent with the group?

Multi-age grouping for sports camps, clinics, and competition seasons happens for good reason, Welch said. “Research assures us that child development is ‘age-related but not age-determined.’ That means, children learn and mature at different rates. A third grader might be more skilled in one sport — say, tennis — than a fifth grader, but not in a different activity. Talk to coaches about your child’s ability level to ensure a good fit.”

For more ideas on choosing physical activity and youth sport programs, visit www.naspeinfo.org.

Assistant Professor Mindy Welch specializes in physical education, sports and recreation.

To arrange an interview contact

Mary Ellen StephensonAssociate Director of Public RelationsButler University(317) 940-6944

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