Team sports like soccer and baseball and football usually get most of the attention when we talk about sports, be it at the youth level, college, or even professional (maybe with the exception of golf at the pro level.) And while many sports parents are quick to sign their sons and daughters up for team sports, not every child wants to be part of a big team. It doesn’t mean they don’t want to play sports, but perhaps they’d do better in a more individualized sport like gymnastics, swimming, or tennis.
Here are three things that individualized sports, like golf or diving or even karate, can offer youth athletes:
Sink or swim on your own.
On a football field or baseball diamond, a less confident athlete can hide out in the middle of the pack. They can rely more on their teammates to make the outstanding plays and carry the team to a victory. It’s not that any one child is less important than the rest of their teammates, but a youth soccer player could very easily avoid making any real contact with the ball for an entire game and few (except maybe the parents) would really notice.
Individualized sports, on the other hand, put that youth athlete right into the hot seat. Winning or losing rests squarely on their shoulders alone. There is no stellar teammate to hide behind, no pack to lose yourself in. When it’s just you on the field/court everyone is watching just you. Individualized youth sports is a very real example of sink or swim—either you make it happen or you don’t. There is no one to blame (or congratulate) but yourself. It can also help youth athletes get used to more intense pressure and being the center of attention, two life skills that are bound to come in handy down the road.
Develop skills at your own pace.
In some team sports, smaller or younger players might feel like they don’t fit in or can’t compete as well, especially if their teammates are bigger, stronger, faster, and more experienced. For instance, its’ entirely feasible that a football team could have one 10 year old that weighs 65 pounds while another weighs 80 (average being around 70). That 15 pound difference can make for a huge advantage for one player over another! Those smaller, slower, or less experienced players might not get the attention and coaching the need and deserve to really shine, especially if the coach is more invested in developing their “stars.”
On the other hand, individualized sports typically mean the coach is working with fewer players at any given time, so each players get more focused coaching. A tennis instructor might still give lessons for 3 or 4 kids at a time, but that’s a lot less than 12! Individualized sports can give youth athletes the chance to develop at their own pace, and worry less about keeping up with so many teammates.
Learn how to motivate yourself.
When there are no teammates pushing you to excel or giving you a benchmark, the drive to improve has to come from within. This kind of intrinsic motivation is oftentimes much more powerful than external motivation in the long run and the kind of life skill that is invaluable. Individualized youth sports are all the individual youth athlete and, as we mentioned before, that means it’s up to them and their efforts to determine the final score. If they want to win no matter what they will put in the extra hours of practice. If they are just having fun they’ll do what’s required and be content with that. And if they don’t want to be there at all trust us, you’ll know it!