Important Choice: Team vs. Individual?

School is back in session, with hours focusing on classroom instruction--quite a change from the summer freedom to be outside and participate in many kinds of physical activities. The neighborhood pool is quiet without the sounds of splashing water and squealing laughter, and I no longer hear the strong young voices of kids playing soccer, baseball or basketball in the parks.

That energy and joy is so important in their personal development, physical health as well as building relationships with each other. They learn to cooperate by organizing games and finding new ways to play the games.

As school starts, how will you encourage your child to continue these activities in a team sport or individual sport? For some parents, those choices have been made and there is a balance between school studies and sports activity. For everyone, it is important to experience both.

Team sports or individual sports? There are pros and cons for both. Some experts will even go so far as to encourage parents to decide which sports are the best choices based on each child’s personality. Extroverts seem to do better with team sports while introverts thrive with individual sports.

There are other considerations based on what you as parent know about your child. Team sports are organized around the team’s success more than any single individual’s performance. The coach is the one giving the instruction, correction and praise. When this is done well, team members learn life lessons for success in the classroom and eventually in the work world.

Unfortunately, for the team player who winds up on the bench more than on the field it becomes a discouraging, defeating experience. Additionally, not all young people respond to coaching and are better setting their own goals for success.

Consider the positive outcomes for individual sports such as swimming, track, tennis, dance or gymnastics. Success in these sports depends on personal motivation. The coach is there to encourage and teach skills specifically for your child. It is up to your child to push the limits to beat the clock, jump the hurdles, or win the match.

In recent news coverage, Selena Williams shares her fierce determination to make a comeback in tennis. What an excellent model of focus and discipline we have in the life of this tennis champion.

Individual sports may still allow students to experience the satisfaction of teamwork. As they rise through various skill levels, there are team meets in swim, track, tennis, gymnastics and dance.

In families with several children, some may do better in one type of sports and another chooses a different type of competition. As parents, we listen and guide them to the sport that suits them best. Where is their passion? What gives them satisfaction?

Is your young athlete a special needs student? There are accommodations the school may provide making participation possible. Vision impairment, deafness, autism and similar challenges are often met with positive solutions if the school knows your wishes.

My former district on all grade levels includes these students by providing a buddy partner in sports and recess whenever possible. Annual Special Olympic Games are held with coaching and practice in preparation. Students are matched to appropriate levels of competition. Medals are awarded and the positive outcomes are long lasting for students and families.

May this coming school year be the best year ever for you and your family!

Enjoy all the activities your school and district have to offer, especially sports programs, which build strength and confidence for all students.

Check out these resources for more ideas:

Ellen Mooney is a retired principal and teacher with more than 45 years of experience in K-12 education.

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