Choosing team or individual sports for your kids

Play both types of sports before deciding

It might be best to expose your child to both team and individual sports. Frank Wisnewski is glad his son Brenden, 13, reaps the benefits from both his LaGrange lacrosse team and his time on the golf course.

He hopes Brenden understands what being part of a team is all about. “I try to emphasize that it is not about wins and losses, but the relationships you build with teammates and the memories and experiences you share. Those are the things you keep with you the rest of your life.”

Brenden appreciates competing in both types of sports. “I love lacrosse and being on the team. I hope to play in high school and college, but all I can do is try out and hope I get picked. I know I can play golf whenever I want. It doesn’t matter what score I get or how old I am.”

Local golf courses, including Vassar, Beekman, and College Hill, offer kids introductory clinics, lessons and tournaments, and local tennis clubs make a similar effort to get kids on the court. Sport programs such as Casperkill’s summer Intensive Sport Camps or Arlington’s Continuing Education offer group instruction at family-friendly rates.


When a child doesn’t want to compete

Not all children are meant to compete and some lack the interest or the natural ability for eye-hand coordination sports. Track and field is one example of a non-contact independent performance within a group atmosphere, and most kids simply enjoy running.

Irv Miller, chairman of kids running for the Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club, said running may be the perfect activity for parents and kids to share. Many of the club’s races are one-mile runs for kids under 13, so a parent and child can participate together.

You compete against yourself,” he said. “You try to improve on a previous time, but others will support you. You develop camaraderie among the runners.” And while running, like golf, focuses on beating a personal best, competition is there if your child wants to catch or pass the runners ahead.

Gymnastics is another sport that allows kids to shine in a team framework. At age eight, Christina Hopper’s daughter Lizzy is already a veteran, having been introduced to the sport at age five. Gymnastics offered Lizzy a slow, noncompetitive entrance into the sport through participation in classes, pre-team and finally team competition when Lizzy and the family were ready to take the leap.

“Lizzy considers herself part of a team,” said her mom. “She doesn’t compare herself to others and is genuinely happy when others do well.” Hopper does notice a difference in competitive philosophy among gymnastics and soccer, the sport of choice for her elder daughter, Allison.

“In soccer, Allison sees how each player’s contribution really helps the team,” said Hopper. “The feeling of not wanting to let the team down if you can’t attend a game or don’t play your best is not there with gymnastics.”

Read more about factors to consider before you choose a sport to enroll your child in.


Laurie Bryant is a teacher, writer and playwright with a lifetime of sports experience. She lives in Lagrangeville with her husband and two sons.