Although there is an elernent Of risk involved with almost all forms of sport and activity, the risk Of injury is highest in sports that involve contact and collisions. So if your child is keen to play any kind of contact sport, ‘it’s very important to take all the recommended precautions to reduce the risk of injury. The following steps should help to reassure you that its safe your child to take part:

. Talk to your child’s coach and make sure that the focus is on having fun — and steady improvement — rather than cornpeting to win at all costs.
.Make sure that the sports field and all equipment is well maintained and in good condition.
.If your child is small for their age, look for a club that groups children according to ability or size, rather than age. Your child is at greater risk of injury if they are paired with a child who is significantly taller or heavier.
.Ensure your child wears the recommended helmets and safety equipment whenever they are playing, and that it is properly fitted.
.Never push your child to play beyond their ability and listen to any worries or concerns they have about taking part.
. Never allow your child to play with an injury.

Which sport is best for my child?
Before you give your child the opportunity to try a new sport, it’s wise to think about the following:
.How much will it cost both to take part and buy the relevant equipment? Is it affordable?
.Will my Child be able to devote enough time to training and competing?
.Does this sport complement my child’s personality, body type and sporting abilities? If not, does it matter?
.What are the characteristics of the sport? Is there physical contact? Does speed matter more than strength? Does this suit my child?
.How will my child get to and from training sessions or tournaments?

Your answers to these questions should help you to determine which organized sport is most likely to suit your child. But if your child is particularly keen to take part then, if possible, it’s best to let them try it and find out for themselves.

George is a nine-year-old boy whose parents moved to a new area when he was halfway through Year 5. George has started spending all his free time in front of the television because he has found it hard to settle into his new school and hasn’t found it easy to make new friends. Before the move he was very active, and enjoyed riding his bike or playing football with friends, but now he spends all his free time playing computer games and watching television. His parents, Sara and Matt, are worried that he is lonely, but also that he is losing interest in the sports that he used to enjoy.


The solution

Changing schools can be a traumatic experience and George obviously found it hard to adjust. George’s parents knew that he was finding it difficult to settle in and make friends and when they asked him about it, he explained that everyone in his class already had friends and didn’t seem interested in making new ones. George’s parents had a word with his teacher, who suggested that he might find it easier to make friends if he joined some after-school clubs At first George wasn’t keen on the idea, but his parents agreed that he wouldn’t have to go more than twice if he didn’t like it.

The outcome

George started going to an after-school football club and, fortunately, he enjoyed it. He found it easier to make friends outside of the classroom and the club gave him the opportunity to meet more children. He now takes part in a weekly practice and sometimes plays a match at the weekend. He’s made a few good friends and now prefers to play outside with them than spend time indoors.

Most children are introduced to team sports during the second half of their primary education. Although they will have been  taught the basic skills involved (throwing, catching and kicking) from the time they start school, children generally don’t have the concentration or maturity to understand and follow the rules of a game and play competitively as part of a team until they are seven or eight years old.

The benefits

Around this time, and sometimes even earlier, some children also begin to take part in organized sports outside of school.Many children love playing team games, and need little encouragement to join a local sports club or team. After all,it  gives them a great opportunity to spend time with their friends — and make new ones — and it also fosters a great sense of belonging, which is very important to children, as they like to ‘fit in’ With their peers. Children also respond well to positive attention, so being praised by their coach in front of their teammates, and enjoying the respect and admiration of their peers can help to build their confidence.

Playing team sports can also teach your child many important life lessons, which can benefit them Off the playing field. These include learning how to:
.play by the rules
.respect a uthority
.win with grace and lose with dignity
.take on leadership roles
.work effectively with others
.cope with success and failure
.concentrate and focus
For all these reasons, many parents think that team games are the obvious choice when looking for a way to keep their child fit and active — after all, playing as part of a team is also one the most obvious ways to make exercise fun. Sports clubs and coaching sessions can be costly, so before you get started and invest too much time or money, it’s a good idea to run through a few practical considerations. Most experts say that children shouldlft specialize in a particular sport too soon, as this can discourage them from trying other activities that they might enjoy more. So give your child lots of opportunities to try different things before they commit to one or two favourites. You should also make sure that your child doesn’t have too many demands on their time. It’s important that they can keep up with schoolwork, try out any other sports or activities that appeal and have some free time, too.

It also pays to be aware that most sports clubs and teams tend to group children according to their age rather than their size, or ability. So if your child is particularly large or small for their age, or is a particularly gifted or nervous participant, check with your local club to make sure that they won’t be competing outside their ability. If the competition is too fierce — or too weak — they may lose interest and give up.

Also consider how your child will cope with the demands of organized sports. Regular practice sessions and tournaments are a big commitment, and a talent for kicking a ball doesn’t necessarily mean that your child is quite ready to join a football team. Pushing your child to compete before they are ready could put them off team sports for good, so keep the focus on fun until you are certain that your child is ready to take it further. Finally, it’s vital to check that any club you are considering for your child meets the relevant safety standards that are set out at the end of this chapter.