Thanks to i9 Sports in Gulfport for partnering with Gulf Coast Moms Blog for this educational post.
Many parents often wonder what’s the best sport for their child to play first? We at i9 Sports get this question all the time from parents of young kids ages 3-6 trying to figure out where to start their child’s sports journey.
Our answer is always the same: It depends on your child!
Let’s take a look at the four mainstream sports and dive into the pros and cons of each to help you make the best decision for your child.
Soccer (i9 Sports starts age 3)
This is always one of the more popular sports for new young athletes and one that we recommend often to parents unsure of where to start.
Soccer has a very simple game format and skill set that kids learn quickly and have success. This helps build confidence in the child early. Great for high energy kids who love to run and do not mind contact.
For shy or timid kids, the contact on the field may be a deterrent from wanting to fully participate. The inevitable “huddle ball” can leave shy or smaller kids on the outside of the crowd. Kids do fall, get kicked, get pushed, and may get small bumps during the game, which may be hard to overcome.
Baseball or T-Ball (i9 Sports starts age 3)
Probably the easiest sport for a brand new player to try first, and the skills learned can translate to other sports.
The skills required can translate into a lot of sports (throwing, hand-eye coordination, hitting, catching, and running). Kids perform many skills individually which allows for all kids to participate equally.
In baseball all kids will get a chance to hit. In soccer, flag football, or basketball not all kids will get a shot or goal, touchdown, or make a basket.
However, they will learn to follow direction, have patience, take turns, and there is little to no contact.
We have several children in our program who have autism that developed the love for baseball.
The game is slower and there is not as much running and constant movement as soccer, basketball, or flag football. This can lead to distracted players. Also, some skills can be very technical for kids to learn (hitting, throwing, catching).
Flag Football (i9 Sports starts age 4)
Great for high energy kids comfortable with contact.
The skills required are not very technical (running, catching, throwing, and flag-pulling) and the game format is also pretty simple.
There is a lot of running and speed is better than size, which allows all sizes to have success. Overall very fun and engaging for active and physically confident kids.
Most kids at this age have an issue with the contact on the field, getting chased by the opposing team, and initiating contact to pull flags. Kids can get bumps, which may impact their willingness to get completely engaged in all activities. Contact size may be an issue on the field.
Basketball (i9 Sports starts age 5)
As a basketball player, I am biased when I say this is my first choice for kids, but there is a reason for this.
Kids learn hand-eye coordination, lower body coordination, sharing, and a basic understanding of game strategy on offense and defense. They are introduced to light contact on the court and there is a lot of running and high energy activities.
The combination of technical skills (dribbling and shooting), contact on the court (huddle ball and defenders in your face), low success rate (minimum baskets shot and made), and potentially less involvement for smaller or shy players could make basketball a harder sport to start as a brand new player.
I hope this list helps you to identify where your child would have the most success for their first sports experience.
Just keep in mind that no matter what you choose, FUN should be the #1 goal.
Do not worry about technique or skill development yet. Social development, confidence, participation, and fun are what you want out of sports for this age.
And remember each kid will have different levels of success for their first 1-2 seasons. Some kids jump right on the field and run the game with no issue at all. Other kids will take a few weeks holding your hand, shedding some tears, and having a few tantrums on the field. Just be patient, encouraging, and ready to support your child with what they need.
If you have any questions about what sport is best for your child or tips to help them along their sports journey please feel free to reach out local i9 Sports Program Director, LaMarques Ogans and he and his team will be happy to help!