Dressed in athletic shorts, a performance T-shirt and new sneakers, your preschooler might look like the world's next tennis phenom on the first day of lessons.
But as the racquet, which seems almost as big as your child, falls to the ground and balls fly overhead, your vision of raising the next Peter Sampras or Venus Williams fades quickly. Even if you knew it was far-fetched, it can be frustrating as a parent to watch a child struggle with a sport.
Participation in organized sports isn't just about developing physical prowess, especially when it comes to the preschool set. Sports programs offered by local parks departments and non-profits allow children to work on more than connecting with a ball. It's an opportunity to learn multiple lifelong skills that can be used on and off the soccer pitch, baseball field or tennis court.
Self-confidence: Your child might not be able to connect the racquet with the ball on the first day of practice, but with a little time and hard work, he or she will eventually connect and control the ball. With each small success, your child will be more willing to take on the next step. As a parent, there will be nothing more satisfying than seeing your child smile the first time he or she gets it right.
Taking Direction: Most parents will agree that preschoolers don't always model good listening skills. Preschoolers enrolled in a sporting program are required to follow directions and will be rewarded for doing so. By listening to their coaches, they'll be allowed to participate in practices and given more opportunities to work on skills. They'll also learn that by heeding the coaches' words, their skills and enjoyment of the sport will improve.
Problem-solving: If your child wants to improve at a particular aspect of the sport, he or she will also learn how to adjust and find out what approach or technique works best.
For example, your son or daughter might learn that in order to hit the ball harder he or she needs to hold the racquet with two hands or stand in a different spot.
Team-building: Youth sports programs teach technique as well as how to work with others. Even in individualized sports like tennis, your child will likely be taught in a group setting that requires sharing equipment and waiting for their turn.
A good coach will also require participants to support the others in the group.
Active Lifestyle: Even the youngest children can feel the pull of electronics such as television, tablets and video games. Participating in a sports program will teach your child how fun playing outside can be.
It will also help create a regular routine of activity, which he or she will hopefully continue through childhood and into adulthood.