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Extracurricular Extras: Why Sports Matter

Get your child moving — athletic activities build both physical prowess and school success.
 

Learning Benefits

Ten-year-old Alex Bowe has a motor in him. He's go, go, go all the time. His dad, Andy, loves sports too, so they play together: baseball, basketball, hockey. "The one-on-one time with Alex gives us a chance to talk as we have fun," says Andy. "I like to pass on the lessons of the game: learning to practice, how to win and lose, being a team player. And exercise is so important. Kids don't always get enough of that in school."

To maximize your young athlete's learning:

  • Read: Subscribe to a publication that specializes in your child's sport.
  • Watch: Go to spring training, a cheerleading convention, a skating competition — even the next Olympics!
  • Visit: When you travel, see a game, tour a gym, or meet a coach.
  • Meet: Go to a book signing when your favorite athlete writes a book.

Notes for Non-Athletes
If your child isn't into sports, it's important not to push him to be something he's not. Not everyone is a LeBron James (few of us are!), but that's no reason to eliminate sports from our lives. (In that vein, the book Short, Fat Triathlete by Jayne Williams is a thoroughly enjoyable read for grownups.) Just substitute activity or movement in place of what we think of as sports, and your child can reap many of the same benefits. Try the following suggestions:

  • Solo flight: Your child might enjoy solitary pursuits, as opposed to team sports. Archery? Bicycling? Yoga?
  • Team spirit: Go to a hockey or baseball game (minor league parks are super family-friendly). The sight of that bright-green diamond or the shining ice rink and the smell of popcorn and hot dogs may interest even the most reluctant fan. Arrive late and leave early so no one has a chance to complain of boredom.
  • A good cause: Suggest a walkathon or other charity event. Supporting a cause she believes in may tip the balance from no to yes. (If all the parents lend encouragement behind the scenes, that helps too.)
  • Canine power: Take your dogs for a long hike.
  • Multiple-choice: Give your child his own membership at a community center with dance classes, a weight room, treadmills, and other kids his age.
  • Super scenery: Walk the full length of a boardwalk along the beach.
  • Car-free and carefree: Visit an island or other vacation spot where there are no cars allowed, so everyone walks or rides scooters, three-wheelers, or bikes.

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