Cross-Training for Kids: 7 sports for skills and thrills

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I’m not trying to train my kids for the Olympics in 2024.  What I am doing is  teaching them about the love of the outdoors, sports and health.  And in doing so,  it gives me the opportunity to run around and get my heart pumping blood.  Cross-training gives kids a chance to learn different sports and allows them to naturally gravitate toward the ones they enjoy.   I’ve listed seven great sports that will help your kids improve their eye-hand (or eye-foot) coordination and, most importantly, allow them to have fun!

Soccer: According to Wikipedia, soccer is considered to be the most popular sport in the world.  Soccer is great for kids because it’s a running game and a team sport, and it teaches kids not to use their hands, except for goalies of course.   It’s a blast to run around with your kids kicking the soccer ball.  And just think, without soccer kids, there would be no soccer moms.

TennisMy father put a tennis racket in my hand before I could walk; I never looked back.  This is a sport that teaches eye-hand coordination, is inexpensive to play and will provide skills that will last a lifetime.  Teaching tennis takes a little patience and one-on-one commitment.  If you don’t play, find someone who can give some basic lessons.

Cycling: This is no-brainer.  Every kid loves to ride a bike.  Bikes provide a child’s first taste of freedom. Start young with a trike and them move to a bike with training wheels.  Buy the best bikes you can afford and take care of them.  Good bikes will last years (important if you have a bunch of kids like we do).   As the kids get older, biking makes a great family activity.  Helmets required!

Baseball: America’s pastime.  While my Dad was dreaming that I’d become a tennis star, I was dreaming of playing in the World Series.  Now all I dream about is being a star father.  As a father, I can’t think of any father-child activity that bonds better than baseball.  I guess we’re just a baseball family; the first song I sang to each of my children as babies was “Take me Out to the Ballgame.” Now, they all know the words and sing along.  Whether it’s T-ball, whiffle ball, Nerf baseball ball or other types, go outside and set up the bases.  Teach them about batting, throwing, catching, running and laughing.  Tip:  please start with really soft balls.  Safety first.

Basketball: This year my 5-year-old son played on his first organized sports team.  Watching the kids run out of a tunnel (formed by parents) with strobe lights, smoke and cheering parents and cheerleaders was really cool.  The announcer introduced each kid by name and number in a voice that was made for radio.  I’m not sure who was prouder, my kid or me.  Upward Basketball taught my son to dribble, pass, shoot and rebound.  Most of all, basketball is a great sport to teach kids about teamwork.  This easily makes my top 7 list.

Swimming: One of the more challenging activities to teach is swimming because kids are naturally afraid of putting their heads underwater.  But I can’t think of a more important sport to teach children at an early age.  The key is not to push your children, but proceed slowly, allowing them to trust the instructor and themselves.  How important is learning to swim?  There are about 326,000,000,000,000,000,000 gallons (326 million trillion gallons) of water on our planet; water covers over 70% of the earth.  With all of that water, at some point, your kid is bound to get wet!

Lacrosse: Lacrosse, developed as early as the 12th century by Native Americans, is one of the oldest team sports in the the Americas.  I’m not advocating that you sign your kid up for a 5-year-old lacrosse league and watch preschoolers hack and smack each other every Saturday.  But you can buy those lacrosse sticks for little kids and teach them to throw, catch and run while cradling the ball.  This helps teach them some fun new skills, and if they ever have a dog, the lacrosse stick is perfect for throwing tennis balls without getting their hands all slimy.

I know what you’re thinking.  What about golf, bowling, skating, skiing, karate, wrestling, and 80 other sports I didn’t mention?   I recommend introducing  as many sports and activities as you can when your kids are young, as part of their overall education, which I hope includes the arts.   Sorry, but I can’t recommend organized football at a young age, although tossing and kicking the ball and letting my kids tackle me is fun.  And I would not recommend boxing at any age.  Getting one’s head pounded is bad! Really bad!

The important thing is that you get outside and participate in these activities with your children.  Remember, your kids’ favorite sports are the ones that you do with them.

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