My daughter recently left her select soccer team and started playing in the local rec league. As a parent, I wondered if she would miss the competition, the tournaments and the technical training that came with higher level soccer. She didn't. Sure, the soccer wasn't quite the same, but she was happy. Over the season, we both came to appreciate what she gained by playing a sport in a recreational league.
Some kids thrive on a busy schedule. Others, like my daughter, need a little more time to read, dream or spend time with family and friends. With fewer games and tournaments, rec sports may be well suited to kids (and parents) who need a little more downtime mixed with their activity.
Playing with Friends from School
Rec league rosters are often set by location. My daughter's team was composed of kids who attended her school, a first for her. Friends from the field translated into friends in the hall and classroom, widening her social circles in an environment she where she was familiar.
I don't know if this is true for every league, but the games in her new league were much calmer. Sure, the players still wanted to win and some losses were hard, but overall it felt like a fun day outside playing a game they loved, no matter the outcome.
A Shorter Season
Most rec leagues run for several months and then break so kids can pursue other sports or activities. By the end of her four-month season, my daughter was excited to hang up her cleats. As an added bonus, we found that when school soccer started a few months later, she was excited to play again.
Lower Risk of Injury
Some research shows that increased specialization leads to increased injury rates, compared to kids who play a variety of sports over the years. Playing multiple sports, something rec seasons encourage, teaches a breadth of movement patterns and can give kids a solid base for sport-specialization later on in adolescence.
Focus on Multiple Activities
Playing in a rec league can be a great fit for a child with varied interests. Does your child want to play baseball and nab a part in the school musical? Do they want to play soccer in the fall and learn to code in the winter? Because rec leagues don't generally run year-round, kids can participate in multiple sports and activities. Fewer practices and a shorter season can also leave time for diverse hobbies.
Just like select or premier-level sports, rec sports teach kids to be considerate teammates and to practice good sportsmanship on and off the field. Kids learn to thank coaches, congratulate winning teams and respect the other players and referees.
Teaching New Skills
Most rec teams will have players with a wide range of skill levels, so this can be a double-edged sword. For kids with higher level skills, it can be a confidence boost. Athletes can also teach skills to teammates, improving on their own as they break movements down for others and learning leadership along the way.
With rec sports, there is a focus on friendly competition with an emphasis on teamwork, healthy activity, improvement and fun. Kids learn to support each other as well, the basis of lifelong team-building.
Health and Fitness
By encouraging improvement, skills and fun, rec sports teach kids to love sports, work as a team and serve as an entry for a lifetime of activity.
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