What Is The Best Age To Start Sports?

What Is The Best Age To Start Sports

Sports are often a key part of a child’s life early on. Sports can help kids stay in shape, meet new friends, and learn valuable life lessons. Research shows that about 60 million children between the ages of six and 18 play at least one sport. Below, we discuss the different aspects of starting sports at various ages.

Avoiding Parent Pressure

No matter what age their child starts playing sports, or what sport they are playing, parents should always try to avoid putting too much pressure on their child early on. Plenty of child psychologists have done research on this topic, and they have found that parental pressure in sports can be damaging both mentally and physically for a kid. Not only that, but at a certain point, it can become too much for the child, and the duress can cause them to quit sports altogether. The key point for a parent to remember is to find the right balance between pushing their kid to work hard and get better, while at the same time not pushing them to a point where they are no longer having fun.

Ages 3-5

While many children begin playing sports at this age, some experts suggest that this may not be the best course of action. Those in the medical field have suggested that many injuries kids suffer while playing sports result from them starting sports too early when their bones are still developing. If they do start at this age, it is important to keep them well-rounded. Focusing solely on one sport can cause a child to overuse the same group of muscles, leading to more injuries and less development of other muscle groups. Most importantly, especially at this age, sports should be all about having fun and learning for these young children, not about being the best or winning/losing.

Ages 6-11

Once kids are in this age group, particularly around age eight, experts suggest that they are truly ready to start playing competitive team sports. Kids are better able to handle the pressures of winning/losing and comparing themselves to other kids at this point in their development. They also have gained some stronger muscles to do some more intense individual sports. Sometimes, rules and equipment for a particular sport will have to be modified to accommodate children on the younger end of this group. In any sport for a kid at this age, while it is acceptable to start focusing a little more on wins and losses than it was for the previous age group, the main focus should still be about both learning the sport and having as much fun as possible.

Ages 12 and Up

Once children reach ages twelve and older, winning and losing becomes much more important in many cases. While having fun and learning are still keys to remember, highly competitive games and matches often take place with these kids. This is especially true with high-level travel sports and school sports. If a child wants to learn a new sport at this age, they should know that their skills will likely not be as developed as their peers who have been playing the sport for a few more years. However, this does not mean that it is too late for a preteen or young teenager to start any given sport. If they are willing to work hard, accept the fact that they likely will not be a superstar right away, and are having fun, they certainly can start at a slightly later age.

College Sports

Regardless of the sport, if a child wants to play in college, they need to start playing the game at an early age. Only the most elite high school athletes go on to play in college. To be exact, about 7% of high school athletes go on to play a sport at some level in college, and less than 2% do so for a Division I school. It is for these reasons that kids need to start working on their skills early on in order to make it to this level. It is also important for children to keep their grades in school up to standard. Colleges are interested in student-athletes, not just pure athletes, so kids need to succeed both on and off the field to play in college.

Professional Sports

If a child wants to play a professional sport, everything that was said above for college sports is true to an even greater extent. They have to start at an early age, always be working on their skills, and truly love the game they are pursuing. Depending on the sport, there are different eligibility requirements for turning professional. Some sports, like tennis or skateboarding, allow children to turn professional as young teens. Others, such as basketball or football, require at least some time in college or out of high school. In the case of baseball, both high school and college players can become professionals, but it is important to note that high school players must have their diploma, and unlike other areas of work, a GED is not considered equal to a high school diploma in terms of draft eligibility. These varied rules prove that it is important for kids to know the eligibility requirements for the specific sport they are pursuing, should they wish to play professionally.

Safety Concerns

In addition to ideal starting ages and eligibility requirements, parents should also be aware of the contact level of the sport their child is interested in. There are quite a few sports that are considered high-contact sports, such as football, hockey, and basketball. There are also some which are considered limited-contact, like baseball, gymnastics, and volleyball. Tennis, weightlifting, and running are sports that are considered to be non-contact, but still somewhat strenuous sports. Lastly, curling, and badminton are called non-contact and moderately strenuous sports, while sports like golf are considered non-contact and non-strenuous. These various contact levels will affect how much safety equipment is required per sport, and parents should be sure that their kids are properly prepared for whatever sport they choose to play.


How do I get my kid started with sports?

Regardless of the sport, you can usually do research to find out where and when the local sports league or camp takes place in your area. These leagues and camps will often have postings online to sign your child up, or there will be a location to do so in person. Youth sports has turned into a $15 billion dollar industry, so with all of that money, chances are there is a youth league or camp near you.

How old should my child be to play sports?

Various sports have better ages to start, but generally speaking, around the ages of 5-8 seem to be the best age range for kids to begin basic sports. It is around this age that kids have developed both the proper motor skills and attention spans required to play and learn a sport. This is not to say that certain sports are not perfectly fine to start at an earlier age than this. Sometimes at these earlier ages, modified versions of the game, with smaller equipment and more lenient rules, can be helpful for these younger kids.

Can I teach my child sports?

If you have experience playing the sport yourself, you most likely would be able to teach the sport to your child without much issue. One valuable thing to do with your child that can both help teach them the game and be a good parent-child bonding activity is to watch the sport being played at a high level, in person or on TV. Watching those who are the best at the sport can be a fast way to learn for a beginner.

How do I pick a sports coach for my child?

In certain situations, you may not be able to choose a coach for your child. This is especially the case in a lot of team sports, as the coaches will often meet and choose the rosters themselves after watching the kids at a tryout of some sort in order to create even teams. If you do have a choice, some key characteristics to look for are experience in the sport, the ability to have fun, and staying positive.