Usually, 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. Some sports parents and coaches might argue that benefit is 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! Team sports aren’t for everyone, and there are plenty of great things that individual sports can teach young athletes!
1. Learn how to be self-reliant.
While having a team behind you to help pick you/back you up is great, it’s also important to learn how to stand on your own two week. In an individual sport, the ultimate success of a youth athlete comes down to them and only them. If something goes wrong they can’t shift the blame onto a teammate, but on the flip side when they win they get all the glory. Individual sports teaches young players that they alone as responsible for their actions.
2. Get comfortable being in the spotlight.
During a singles tennis match all eyes are on the two players. Whether you 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 get comfortable being the center of attention. This skill comes in handy during school and (way down the road) business presentations!
3. Motivation has to come from within.
Obviously individual sport athletes still have a coach and excited parents, but at the end of the day those youth athletes have to be the ones pushing themselves to achieve. There is no teammate on the court/field with you whose energy you can feed off of, who can get you excited and pumped up to go-all that has to come from within. Intrinsic motivation has often proven to be more powerful than an external push, 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 away some of the pressure to “catch up.” For instance, let’s say your 12 year old wants to start playing hockey. Chances are most of the other 12 year olds in the league have been skating since they were really little. Your athlete is going to be behind the skill level of his teammates, which can sometimes be a hard pill to swallow, especially if they want to impress their friends. But say the same 12 year old wants to start playing golf-he will be competing against people based on skill level, not necessarily age. There is a lot less pressure to perform right out of the gate.
Whatever sports your child wants to play, be it a team sport or individual, we say give them a chance! There are a lot of great benefits to any sport.