As a kid, Tim Duncan, a future NBA Hall of Famer, could be found swimming competitively, not shooting hoops. That is, until he switched to basketball in high school.
Children wanting to switch sports as they get older may feel like it’s too late. With organized sports beginning at earlier ages than ever, kids may wonder if they can still be successful starting a new sport at, say, age 14. But that’s the age when Alex Morgan, U.S. soccer superstar, first joined a club level soccer team.
The lure of a new sport
It’s not that uncommon for children to transition to a new sport as they grow up. Some kids get bored with their current sport after having played for many years. They may want a new challenge, a new experience, a new team or teammates.
Athletes entering high school might not make the team and decide to take up a new sport – often switching to an individual sport where there may not be cuts. Or they may see their friends playing a different sport and it gets them interested. Sometimes cost is a factor in pursuing another sport, too.
Switch to lessen injuries
Parents are often the ones to pull the plug on their kids’ current sport when they see it getting too dangerous. The rise in concussions has some kids switching to less contact sports.
For the second year in a row, California kids playing high school football decreased by more than 3,100 students. In contrast, less contact sports like lacrosse and cross country are gaining popularity in California. Lacrosse saw an increase of 7.5 % participants from last year, while cross country increased by 5%.
Tips for a successful switch
When children decide to switch sports, it’s helpful to talk to them about the challenges they may face. Let them know they’ll need to put in extra practice and show discipline and determination to learn the new sport. Your child may at times get frustrated. If the new team your child joins has been playing together for a while, it may take time to feel comfortable on the team.
The good news about switching sports is that some of your child’s specific skills may be able to carry over to the new sport. Experts call this the transfer principle. Learning and executing a skill in one activity influences the performance of other related activities. Certain sports have common actions and movements making it easier for your child to get the hang of the new sport.
While your child’s athletic ability and transfer of skills can help make the transition easier, you may want to consider hiring a private coach for your child. By working one on one with your child, a coach can teach new skills and give your child the extra practice necessary to get up to speed and be successful with their new sport.
Reassure your child that it’s not too late to switch sports in order to do something they enjoy. And if they work hard enough at it, they may find themselves competing at a high level some day.