Keeping Kids’ Sports Safe, Healthy, and Fun
We asked Scott Pepin, M.D., one of Summit Orthopedics’ sports medicine experts, to share his best tips for keeping kids’ sports safe, healthy, and fun.
Participating in sports is good for kids in lots of ways. There’s nothing like the feeling of winning. Or is there? Actually, evidence suggests that when you ask girls and boys what they like about playing sports, winning is near the bottom of the list.
What kids like about sports
According to a recent study, both boys and girls report that trying your best, working hard, being active, and working together as a team are among the things they like best about participating in sports. These were the most popular answers among both younger and older players, and they remained consistent whether the young athletes played recreationally or competitively. Where did winning rank on the list? All the way down at number 40.
Benefits of sports
“We want kids to be active,” said Scott Pepin, M.D., sports medicine specialist at Summit. “Involvement in sports is great for that, but it has other benefits as well.”
Important psychological and social benefits of participating in sports include developing camaraderie with teammates, learning teamwork, learning from a coach, and working toward a common goal.
Tips for keeping kids’ sports safe, healthy, and fun
- Focus on fun. “Introducing kids to sports has to focus on fun,” Dr. Pepin said. “It should not be a forced experience.” Parents can listen to their child’s preferences when choosing sports to try. Another good idea is to talk about sports using language that emphasizes having fun and doing your best.
- Choose the right sport. “The question of what sport a child should play is something we are asked a lot,” Dr. Pepin said. The right sport is something age-appropriate that fits the child’s developmental stage. For example, many kids can play soccer at a young age, because running and kicking a ball are skills that develop relatively early. In contrast, a sport like lacrosse requires a higher degree of hand-eye coordination to play.
- Practice well. “The coaches should be very positive,” Dr. Pepin said. Practices should focus on learning the basics of the sport and having fun, using a combination of skill practice drills and fun games. Kids will develop the foundational skills of the sport, build their familiarity with the game, and have fun at the same time.
- Switch it up. As kids get older, they may begin to focus on a single sport. While that is fine, Dr. Pepin discourages playing any one sport year-round. “We see many more sports injuries in kids who play one sport all year,” he said. Taking some time off from sports—a month or two—or switching to a different sport during the off-season can help kids work different muscle groups, learn different skills, and keep their enthusiasm high.
Done right, kids’ early experiences with sports can set them up for a lifetime of healthy activity.
Summit Orthopedics offers comprehensive sports medicine expertise
From Olympians to pro athletes to kids in youth sports and those that just want to be more active—Summit Orthopedics delivers expert care by fellowship-trained sports medicine physicians. If you are recently injured or concerned about ongoing pain, Summit Orthopedics sports medicine specialists have the expertise to evaluate your discomfort and develop a plan to quickly and safely help you get back to being active.
Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Plymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as several additional community clinics.
More resources for you
- Get tips to prevent children’s sports injuries
- Learn about the most common sports injuries
- Meet sports medicine surgeon Scott Pepin, M.D.
- Read about how to treat children’s sports injuries
When it comes to the number of sports your child plays, Dr. Pepin advises that more is better.
Ask the Expert: Sports Medicine Video Series
Fitness habits start us on the road to a healthy active lifestyle. How early should parents start encouraging children in sports? Dr. Skendzel shares his thoughts about how parents can cultivate good health through activity.