Choosing a Sports Program for Your Tween

There are options for just about every tween

Choose a sports program that you can afford and that works with your family schedule
A good sports program will help your child work on skills and help teach responsibility. Photo: Cedric Aellen,

 If you want your tween to improve skills, make friends, develop a little confidence and get some exercise, then you're probably thinking about signing your child up for a sports program. Involvement in organized sports does offer a lot for growing children. But the key to your child's successful involvement relies on picking the right program. Below are a few program options that you might want to consider, along with the benefits and drawbacks of each.


Possible Sports Programs for Tweens

A Recreation League: A recreation league is often a great way to try out a new sport and develop specific sport skills. Recreation leagues usually consist of organized teams that scrimmage against one another. The atmosphere is much more casual and laid back than a competitive or travel team. Recreation leagues are great for kids who want to try a sport, stay involved, but may not have the time or dedication that's required for a competitive team. They are also very reasonably priced, so they work well for families on a budget. Often times parents are asked to take turns coaching or assisting these teams. 

Competitive Teams: Competitive or league teams are a bit more structured than a recreation league, and often cost families much more. If your child joins a competitive league, he or she may be required to sign a contract that spells out what is expected of your child for the season.

Practices and games are typically mandatory, and coaches expect your tween to make the sport one of his top priorities. These teams are very good at helping young athletes develop their skills, and the commitment helps tweens learn responsibility and the importance of follow through.

Neighborhood Pick Up Games: Pick up games aren't as common as they once were, but there's always the option of a bunch of tweens gathering together to play a pick up game of soccer, volleyball, basketball, or baseball.

Pick up games are great because adults can let the kids manage the games entirely by themselves. That means the kids will be totally in charge, mentoring one another and just having fun together. And no cost is required, so everyone can play.

The School Team: Many middle schools offer team sports or intramural sports for their students. These teams are another great option for busy families or families with two working parents as the school typically arranges transportation to and from games. Practice usually takes place right after school, and the seasons are never very long. The cost is minimal, and a school team is a great way for your child to be involved with his classmates and represent his school.

Summer Camp Programs: Many young athletes prefer to attend a summer camp that's sports focused, for example baseball camp, tennis camp, etc. These summer programs are great ways for your child to improve skills, and learn from the best coaches around. But, be prepared to pay for the experience as many of these programs also come with a hefty price tag.

The summer camp sports experience will help your tween keep his skills over the summer break, and maybe even give him a boost if he's considering trying out for a team. Research any camp program you're considering and be sure to ask for a reference or two, so you know you're choosing a program that's best for your tween.

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