When your child starts to show an interest in playing sports it is natural to think about the effects it could have on their lives. Playing a sport has many positive effects on kids of all ages, from improving their social skills to helping them succeed in the classroom. But there is another facet to team sports that deserves a bit of consideration: the level of competition and the effect it will have on young players.

Early competition might not be the best choice

Competitive sports like basketball and soccer have long been favourites of new athletes. The potential for game development is high and the ability to cross between sports to learn from multiple disciplines helps athletes to both hone their respective game, and decide if they want to specialize in a specific sport.

At Burlington Basketball, competitive play takes several forms. From “for fun” competitive House League programs to traveling “rep” teams…to dedicated skills programs. Find the level of competition you want, or don’t want. Most importantly, stay fit, healthy and have fun!

However, competition isn’t always a good thing. Too much too soon can put kids into a position that they’re not ready for. So before encouraging your child to jump into the world of competitive basketball…

…consider these points to determine if they’re ready for what competition brings.

Are they old enough?

Age definitely plays a factor in determining whether a child is ready to start playing competitive basketball. Child development experts agree that kids shouldn’t play competitive sports until they are at least 8 years old. Until that age the stresses that come along with competition will just serve to hurt them. The pressures of winning, losing and being judged by how they perform on the court can lead to a child walking away from the game before they’ve even been able to give it a chance.

This age recommendation doesn’t mean that as soon as a child hits the age of 8 that they’re suddenly ready to play competitive basketball, however. Many kids might not be ready to take on the stressors of competition basketball until they are 10, 11 or even 12 years old.

Are they developed enough?

This question applies to physical, emotional and mental development. Younger players are more likely to get injured on the court so the more they can allow their bones to develop before getting into competitive and highly physical game play, the better. Kids also need to be able to handle the emotions that come with winning and losing games in order to play competitive sports. Mentally, the pressures of letting down your team, coach or parent and the ability to respect and obey their coach all need to be considered.

Are they good enough?

Thinking objectively, recognizing whether your child has enough skills to actually succeed in competitive basketball is an important part of deciding whether to encourage them to go for it. If you can tell that your child is destined to have fun and enjoy the sport but may not necessarily have the drive to play on a select team, consider helping them love the atmosphere they’ll experience on a house leagues team.

Do they even want to?

Thrusting a child into a competitive atmosphere before they actually feel ready for it can lead to more harm than good. Try to figure out if they want to join a select team because they actually have a passion for the game, or if they are more socially motivated. Be careful to not push them in a certain direction because of what you want for them though.

Sports should focus on fun

When a child is getting started with basketball the focus should always be on fun and skill development rather than winning. There is plenty of time for an athlete to immerse in the competitive side of the game and to specialize in one sport or position over another so when they are young and just getting to know the game, it’s essential to focus on the benefits of fun and physical exercise. Taking care to avoid putting pressure on young athletes can help them learn a love of the game that will last their whole life.