Oftentimes, when sports parents, coaches and league administrators talk about “youth sports” they are referring to team sports like baseball, football, soccer, basketball, lacrosse and so forth. Obviously one of the biggest benefits of being involved in a team sport is that a youth athlete learns how to be part of a team. They learn when to lead and when to follow, how to work well with others and function as a group. Some sports parents and coaches might argue that those benefits are lost if a child gets 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!
Here are positive benefits of individual sports:
1. Youth athletes in individual sports learn to be self reliant. Their success is entirely dependent on their own efforts. If they want to win, they can’t count on someone else carrying them through the competition. If they lose a match, individual sport athletes can’t blame anyone else for their failure. This teaches them to be responsible for their own action and decisions.
2. Individual sports can teach players how to be comfortable in the spotlight. All eyes are on them during play and they can’t hide out in a crowded field. Being comfortable performing solo in front of a crowd can come in hand for school and work presentations later in life.
3. Even individual sports have “teams.” For instance, each member of a gymnastics squad competes as an individual, but their individual scores feed into the overall score for the whole team. Their efforts still affect the success of their team, even if they are competing on their own.
4. Individual sports teach players how to motivate themselves. There is no team pressuring them to improve, the drive has to come from within. This kind of intrinsic motivation is oftentimes much more powerful than external motivation.
5. Individual sports allow athletes to compete at their own pace. For instance, if your 12 year old decides they want to start playing football, they’ll be competing against other 12-14 year olds, some who have been playing football since they were 6. However, if your 12 year old decides they want to start karate, they’ll be practicing/competing with people of a similar skill level. There isn’t as much pressure to “catch up” with the other players.