According to the National Council of Youth Sports, more than 44 million kids across the U.S. participate in at least one youth sport. If your teen is thinking of starting a sport, or changing from one athletic activity to another, there are an array of options that can include everything from sports requiring competitive training to more leisurely active pursuits.
By the time that your teen reaches middle school or high school, it's likely that he has tried a number of different sports. From T-ball and soccer to swimming and tennis, kids often start sports at an early age. That said, kids who wait until 13 or 14 to begin a sport may have a distinct disadvantage compared to teens who begin training at age 4 or 5. A teen without much experience in a competitive sport may want to focus his choices on athletics that are more about physical conditioning and fun. For example, if your 16-year-old has never played football, it's unlikely that he will make it onto his high school's varsity team, but he may develop tennis skills to play recreational games with friends.
Your teen may not make the elite travel team when she tries out for a new sport, but she can still reap the benefits of team play. Soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, basketball, softball and baseball are all popular team sports. If your teen doesn't feel comfortable starting out at the varsity level -- or doesn't yet have the skills to make the team -- you can look for community team sports programs or sign your teen up for intramural activities. Intramural sports are typically school-sponsored athletic activities that aren't in an inter-school competitive league. For example, your teen's high school may have an in-school flag football league that has after-school, fun-filled, non-competitive play. Additionally, the pediatric pros at the KidsHealth website note that its perfectly acceptable for teens to try a sport, not like it, and then choose a new one.
Lifelong and Leisure Sports
Your teen's friends may participate in competitive sports that have limited lifetimes, such as football or baseball, but other athletics are more of a leisure-time pursuit that your child can continue engaging in well into her adult years. The American Academy of Pediatrics' Healthy Children website suggests lifetime or lifelong sports such as golf, jogging, tennis, skiing or biking that will give your teen plenty of physical activity right now and for years to come.
If your teen prefers not to participate in a team environment -- or is looking for a non-team-oriented sport to add to his baseball and football activities -- consider introducing him to an individual sport. Unlike team sports, individual athletics pit your teen against himself when it comes to mastering skills and competing. These sports include swimming, track or martial arts. Additionally, your child can try a non-competitive individual sport that is more about building physical strength or enjoying the outdoors, like hiking, biking, walking, yoga or Pilates.