Sports and Children

Sports are physical activities that give kids a way to use up some of their energy, keep a healthy weight, develop coordination, and build strength. Sports can help your child build confidence and help reduce anxiety, depression, and stress. Sports also help teach life skills such as teamwork, leadership, patience, and how to set and achieve goals.

Why are sports important?

Twenty percent of children in the US are overweight. These children are more likely to be overweight adults, which can increase their risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and other health problems. Playing sports is a great way to make exercise fun and help your child learn healthy habits.

Playing sports can help build your child’s self-esteem. Giving and getting encouragement and respect from peers can help your child feel good about himself. Drug and alcohol use are less common with teens who play sports.

Sports can also help teach your child how to manage his emotions, such as when he’s frustrated by not doing well or angry at losing. Sports also helps learn how to solve problems, such as how well the team members work together. Finding time for school and sports can teach children how to better manage their time. Being on a team can teach your child about commitment and the benefits of hard work. Studies show that children who play sports work harder in the classroom.

How do I help my child choose the right sport?

Most children can start to play organized team sports when they are 5 or 6 years old. Basketball and soccer are good sports for even young children to learn. Think about what kind of time, money, and commitment will be involved for you as well as your child. Your child could try school sports, dance classes, or gymnastics. If your school doesn’t offer anything, try the YMCA or your local parks and recreation district. Look for a program that matches your child’s abilities and encourages each child to participate. The program should stress helping your child learn skills and have fun rather than focusing only on winning.

Encourage your child to try more than one sport. Focusing on just one sport can lead to burn out. Talk with your child regularly and make sure your child is having fun.

Not all children enjoy team sports. Some children do better at individual sports such as karate. Find out what your child is interested in and what he thinks is fun.

How can I help my child enjoy sports?

Learn about the sport and be involved if you can. Talk to the coaches and other parents to make sure you are comfortable with them.

Practice with your child. Go to practices and games. Don’t yell or get upset at the coach, other players, other parents, the referee, or your child. Your child learns by watching you. Keep your cool.

Have realistic expectations for your child. Don’t focus on future college scholarships or professional careers. This can put too much pressure on your child. Very few children will grow up to be professional athletes.

Praise effort, not just outcome. If your child does not make the team, tell your child how proud you are that he tried. Even though your child may not be “first” or “best” or “perfect” in an event or activity, praise him for getting better. Help your child talk through disappointments and losing. Ask him about team members and the coach. Play down the idea of competition. Emphasize having fun.

How do I keep my child safe?

  • Make sure your child has a physical exam before he starts playing any sport. If your child has a medical problem, such as asthma or diabetes, make sure the coach knows what to do to help your child.
  • Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids, especially when it’s hot outside. Kids are at a higher risk for heat illnesses.
  • Encourage your child to eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet can help give your child energy to do better in sports.
  • Be sure your child has the proper equipment and follows the rules of the sport. Buy the right kind of safety gear and make sure your child uses it for practice and not just for competition.
  • Encourage your child to warm up before playing sports to help prevent injury. Your child should have rest days in between practice.
  • To prevent overuse injuries, it is better if your child does not play the same sport all through the year. The bones of young children are still growing. Too much pitching or throwing, for example, can injure your child’s elbow.
  • It is important that your child not “be tough” or “act like a man” when injured. Find out what happens if your child gets sick or injured. If he gets hurt, your child’s healthcare provider should check the injury to make sure that it is not more serious than it looks. Your child should not participate in sports when he is sick, in pain, or tired. If your child has even a minor head injury during a sporting event, he should not return to play until his provider says it is OK.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-06-02
Last reviewed: 2014-05-30
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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