When is the Right Time to Introduce Children to Team Sports?

October 17, 2016

Team sports can be great for children of all ages (provided they are old enough to participate safely). Not only do team sports teach physical skills but they can also introduce your child to teamwork, sportsmanship, time management, healthy competition and more. But, how do you know when the right time is? What sport your child will excel and enjoy most? What level of play is most appropriate? Here are some guidelines to consider when making these decisions.

What is the Right Age?

The right age for kids to join sports really varies from child to child. It’s dependent on you and your child to decide when they’re ready to join a sports team. Beyond being physically ready, there are a couple of things you can talk about with your child to determine if they’re ready or not. Be sure to explain to your child that this is a commitment they are making to their team, the sport and themselves. This shouldn’t be a decision taken lightly. Ask them if they’re ready for that commitment, and let them know that it really is their decision. If they decide they’re not ready, that’s okay, it’s important not to force it. You can revisit the topic next season or when your child brings it up.

Chronological vs Biological Age

It’s important to not focus only on chronological age as every child develops at a different rate. The things you should pay more attention to are the basic motor skills and cognitive development of your child:

Basic motor skills

Before your child is ready to participate in sports, they should have mastered basic motor skills like running, throwing and balance before they begin to play sports.

Cognitive development

In order for your child to benefit from and enjoy sports, they need to be able to understand rules and follow simple instructions (i.e. to stay in a particular position, know which way to run, etc.)

Which Sport is Right for your Child?

This should be something your child decides on their own. This can prove to be difficult sometimes, especially if this is their first taste of any sport at all. If they’ve shown interest in a few different sports, perhaps you can help them narrow it down. Do they have friends that play? When do the seasons start/end; perhaps it’s a possibility for them to participate in more than one sport if time permits.

Fundamental Skill Leagues

If a child begins a sport at a young age, there is often lots of instruction from coaches. Many leagues (Timbits, Canadian Tire) actually offer skill-building drills and exercises along with scrimmages. These can be great for younger children, especially if you don’t have much experience (or it’s been a while!) with the sport. These leagues are great as they can help to teach your child the fundamentals of their chosen sport. Look online or ask neighbours, friends and parents of classmates which leagues their children participate in for some ideas.

Competitive or House League?

So, you’re thinking about having your child play (or try out for) a competitive team. First, make sure this is what your child wants. Did they ask/come to you with the idea? If not, be sure to explain to them that the commitment and dedication are much higher and the coaching style is different than in house leagues. As kids get older, rep sports become more competitive. Your child may find themselves getting less playing time than they received in house league.

There will be changes for you, as a parent as well.

Firstly, there is a vast financial difference between the two types of teams. Be prepared to pay for rep or competitive sports upwards of five times the cost of house league sports.

Secondly, many competitive teams are active 3-5 times a week – sometimes more – and participate in overnight tournaments that can really add up (time and money). Overall, it’s a family commitment, one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Communicating with Coaches

Whether your child plays in a house league or on a competitive team, you’ll need to communicate with the coaches of the team. If your child is younger (under 10), coaches typically hold a meeting at the start of the season with all of the parents. During this meeting, the coach will discuss the expectations they have for your child for the season as well as address any questions or concerns you may have.

No matter the age of your child or the level of sport they play, the coaches will still need to make decisions that will sometimes affect your child. You need to make sure that your child understands this, and encourage them to speak to their coach if a decision bothers them.

My Child isn’t Interested in Sports, Now What?

You want your child to reap the benefits of participating in a team environment and learning about time management, commitment, etc. The only problem? Your child has zero interest in sports. It’s okay – sports aren’t for everyone! What are they interested in? Maybe it’s music or drama, try a local band or drama club. They’ll enjoy themselves while gaining the same benefits of a sports team.


In the end, it’s really up to you and your child to decide when they’re ready to enter the world of team sports or activities. Remember, keep the communication lines open between you and your child and continue to remind them that at the end of the day, having fun is what matters most.

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