A Child's First Sport Puts the Fit in Fitness

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A child's youth is filled with a flurry of experiences and learning lessons. Organized sports aid kids in building essential social and motor skills in addition to laying the foundation for active lifestyles. Options abound when it comes to getting children involved in sports that are right for them.

Football
"Punt, pass, kick!" is the shout that fuels many little boys' big dreams. Most communities offer full-contact Pee Wee football for youngsters. Some local leagues set their own guidelines for play, whereas those involved in the Pop Warner League advocate strict weight and age divisions. Area YMCAs also provide flag football for children who shy from full-contact.

Soccer
For kids with lots of energy to spare, soccer is a great outlet. The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) and United States Youth Soccer (USYS) have divisions throughout the states where both organizations boast that children of all ages are welcome regardless of skill level or sporting goals. The AYSO also offers programs for children and young adults with disabilities.

Tee Ball
Tee Ball gives the benefit of team play with minimal physical labor. A great precursor to softball and baseball programs, Tee Ball teaches the fundamentals without burdening children with a pitching situation. According to the T-Ball USA Association, all players get to bat (striking the ball from a tee placed at home plate) and field. Players with more advanced skills have the option of a coach pitching to them.

Martial Arts
Beyond "hi-ya!" karate chops, kids' individuality and inner strengths are emphasized by practicing martial arts. All disciplines help participants gain confidence while developing self-defense skills and control as the stripe and belt systems aid children with setting and achieving personal goals.

Gymnastics
Bed-jumpers unite! Gymnastic-based programs found at area YMCAs and youth-focused gyms interest the tumbler inside every child. Pre-school aged children are introduced to basic gymnast equipment, but also guided through body-awareness, flexibility and control exercises. As participants gain skill, more advanced techniques and maneuvers are introduced.

No matter where a child's interests lie, organized sports can not only assist in development, but spark the imagination and build a lifelong love for activity. Everybody wins.

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