Typically when parents, coaches, and sports league administrators talk about “youth sports” they are referring to team sports like baseball, football, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, etc. Obviously, one of the biggest benefits of participating in a team sport is that a young athlete learns to be part of a team. Some parents and sports coaches might argue that the benefit is lost if a child is involved in individual sports (karate, tennis, golf, swimming, etc.). But if your child is more interested in an individual sport than a team sport, don’t despair! Team sports are not for everyone, and there are many wonderful things that individual sports can teach young athletes!
1. Learn to be self-sufficient.
While having a team behind you to help you up or back you up is great, it’s also important to learn how to stand on your own for two weeks. In an individual sport, the ultimate success of a youth athlete comes down to them and them alone. If something goes wrong, they can’t blame a teammate, but on the other hand, when they win, they get all the glory. Individual sports teach young players that they alone are responsible for their actions.
2. Be comfortable being the center of attention.
During a singles tennis match all eyes are on the two players. Like it or not, everyone is watching you and it’s hard to hide in the background when you’re the only one out there. Not everyone is born loving the spotlight, but individual sports can teach young athletes how to be comfortable in the spotlight. This skill is useful during school and (in the future) business presentations!
3. Motivation has to come from within.
Obviously, individual sports athletes still have an excited coach and parents, but at the end of the day, those young athletes have to be the ones pushing for it. There is no teammate on the court/field with you whose energy you can feed off of, who can excite you and encourage you to go, all of that has to come from within. Intrinsic motivation has often proven to be more powerful than an external drive, and when it comes to individual sports, it’s all about internal motivation!
4. It’s okay to learn at your own pace.
Individual sports allow athletes to compete at their own pace, taking some of the pressure off to “catch up.” For example, let’s say your 12-year-old son wants to start playing hockey. Chances are, most of the other 12-year-olds in the league have been skating since they were very young. Your athlete will be below the skill level of their teammates, which can sometimes be a hard pill to swallow, especially if they want to impress their friends. But suppose the same 12-year-old wants to start playing golf: he’ll be competing against people based on skill level, not necessarily age. There is much less pressure to perform from the start.
Whatever sport your child wants to play, whether it’s a team sport or an individual sport, we say give it a try. There are a lot of great benefits to any sport.