Don't Overdo It
Sports are such a big deal that sometimes parents can go too far. Some encourage an intense focus on a single sport at an early age, while others enroll their child in four activities at once. However, both approaches can backfire, cautions Tina Syer, associate director of Positive Coaching Alliance, in Mountain View, California. "Too much monotony -- one sport several times a week plus weekend matches -- can make it feel more like a job than a fun activity, but too much variety can leave her too busy to learn to love any one of them." What's the magic number? At this age, kids should play two or three sports a year, so they get a broad range of skills, says Daniel Gould, Ph.D., director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University in East Lansing. As they get older, they can decide to cut down or stay the course.
Give Him a Say
Assuming he's tried out a few things over the last couple of years, your child has probably developed some preferences. Ask him what team he'd like to join -- you may be surprised by his response. "Parents often put their child in the same sports program that his friends are in, but that's not always the best approach," says Dr. Zelinger. If your son hates soccer, for instance, or isn't good at it, he could feel like a failure, and may resist trying other sports.
Explain the Real Commitment
Before sign-up day, make it clear to your child that she must participatefor the whole season and that if she doesn't enjoy it, she can try something else next time. It's reasonable to expect a 7-year-old to see a season through from start to finish; this is the age when kids are learning responsibility in school too. "Some kids may want to quit after two practices if they're struggling or it's harder than they expected," says Glenn Kashurba, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Somerset, Pennsylvania. "But if they stick with it for a while, their skills will improve and they might like it enough to play another season."