Kids benefit from playing team sports

Health & Fitness column

Spring and summer bring many opportunities for kids to participate in sports and other activities that promote and encourage exercise and being active, along with team work. If you have kids who have never participated in a team sport, it is something to consider, especially this time of the year. Not only does it provide a fun and exciting way to get some physical activity, it can teach children so many other life lessons.

The majority of coaches for younger children (the under 6/7 age range) have one main goal for the kids on their team ... Have Fun! Along with learning how to play the game and understanding the rules, the goal at this age is to have fun and be part of a team.

Kids at this age don’t usually have the win-at-all-costs attitude and therefore just playing with other kids is what they want to do. I am sure you have all watched or heard about a soccer game with 4 and 5 year olds playing. All they want to do is run around in circles and chase after the ball.

They may not be scoring 20 goals a season, but they are having lots of fun and getting lots of exercise. As a mother of two 5-year-old boys, this is my main concern right now — learning how to play and have fun and enjoy the sport and not be so concerned about winning (although I have to admit that my boys still tell me what the score is and who scored the points/goals/runs, even though an official score is not kept).

The goal of having fun and being active can assist in the kids learning team work and good sportsmanship. These are attributes they can carry though their entire lives. Getting along with other kids, sharing and being nice are all lessons we strive to instill in our children.

Participating on a sports team, regardless of which sport, gives kids a fun environment to learn these important skills. Consequently, I encourage any parent of young children to sign their children up as soon as possible to participate on a sports team. They may not be the next LeBron James or Matt Ryan, but it will teach them skills and lessons that may stay with them for years.

A few local places that offer youth team sports are the Albany YMCA and Lee County YMCA (http://www.albanyareaymca.org/). They offer youth soccer, basketball and T-ball, all with the goal of having fun and encouraging kids to be active.

Dr. Kirsten Lupinski is an assistant professor at Albany State University in the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department. She has a B.S. in Nutrition from the University of North Carolina, an M.S. in Health Education from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate in Education from the University of Cincinnati. She has worked in the health education field in various capacities (corporate health, community health, college health and wellness and university education) for more than 15 years. She and her husband have three young children (5-year-old twin sons and a 2-year-old daughter).