Extracurricular sports take up time, money, and let's face it, effort on your part as a parent. After all, you're the one who's financing these activities and helping your kids practise in their downtime.
That's why it's in parents' best interests to make sure their kids are committed to playing on a sports team before signing them up.
While there are a number of benefits to youth sports — including health and improved social and problem-solving skills — children don't often see it that way, and may lose interest if playing the game isn't as much fun as they had anticipated.
But according to Hilary Levey Friedman, a Harvard University sociologist, this is normal.
"Childhood is the time to try out many different things, so not all music, art, and sports classes will stick for the long run," Friedman told Today.com. "But kids should try to get a complete experience with a class or team before moving on to something else."
So what's your best bet when helping your kids choose a sport to try out? Canadian parenting expert Ann Douglas suggests exploring options by watching sports videos together.
"Help your child to figure out what sports have greatest appeal for them, given what they've learned about themselves," Douglas advised in an email to HuffPost Canada. "Do they like sports that take place in water or on an ice rink? Are they more drawn to individual events or team sports?"
While it can take some time to nail down the right sport, Douglas said, "Don't be discouraged."
"Each time they try something new, they'll learn something more about themselves — what they like and what they don't like," she explained. "You can't fast-forward through this process of self-discovery, nor would you want to. It's a crucial part of growing up: figuring out who you are and what you want for yourself."
When your child has finally settled on a sport, here are three questions you should ask them before they join the team, according to Douglas.
1. Why are you interested in playing this particular sport?
"Asking this question will help you to determine your child's motivation for signing up," the parenting expert said. "It could be that [their] best friend plays this sport and/or belongs to this particular team, or it could be that [they've] watched other kids playing this sport and decided it would be fun to try."
Understanding your child's drive is also important because it "makes it easier for you to support [them]," Douglas said. Parents, for instance, can use this answer to help inspire kids when they're feeling unmotivated to continue.
2. How much time are you prepared to devote to this sport per week?
If your child has never been part of a sports team before, they might not fully understand the kind of commitment it takes.
"Asking this question will help you to get a sense of how much your child knows about the sport and whether or not your child is being realistic about the commitment involved — if it's once a week or three times a week, for example," Douglas said.
She also added that this question reminds kids that playing the game is only one part of being on a team. "It's also about showing up for practices, working hard at mastering new skills, and possibly fundraising on top of that, too," Douglas said. "Your child needs to understand the full range of the commitment up front."
3. Is this something you want to try a couple of times or is this something you'd like to play for longer than that — perhaps the rest of the season?
While the previous question gauged your child's level of commitment, this question gauges their level of interest by determining whether they should try the sport as a one-time experiment or as a long-term responsibility.
"This can help you to decide whether you want to borrow or buy sports equipment — and it helps to ensure that you and your child are on the same page about the extent of the commitment that your child is prepared to make initially," Douglas said.
"Who knows? Maybe your child will try the sport and then decide it's not [their] thing. Or maybe [they'll] love it and it will become a more permanent part of [their] life."