Kids Starting Sports

Parent Q&A

4th grade beginner sports for girls? Oct 15, 2021 (20 responses below)
Strength training for 8 and 9 year olds? Feb 11, 2020 (3 responses below)
Team sport for 9 & 12 yo just starting out? Jul 8, 2019 (13 responses below)
  • 4th grade beginner sports for girls?

    (20 replies)

    As a child, I was a sports pariah. The last to be picked on teams. Dreading the mandatory PE where humiliation was guaranteed. Volleyball and basketball may as well be a dodgeball for me. I struggled socially due to my athletic inability. My spouse is not bad at sports but is not interested in them. We do not watch sports. So, our daughter has had zero introduction to any physical activities other than the usual running around and play or bike with friends. I read that it’s important for girls to play sports and it helps them feel confident as they grow older. I certainly felt that if I were good at a sport, I would have had an easier time in high school. Our daughter is brilliantly joyful, confident and extroverted and we hope she will maintain this personality as she enters puberty. I am a bit at a loss for where to start? I have asked her if she would be interested in sports. She said she would be interested in horseback riding or swimming. Neither seems easily accessible. She has enjoyed dance classes in the past but we do not feel comfortable sending her to indoor dance studio yet. We live on hills, so we have to go somewhere to play with balls. I would love to hear any ideas you may have on how to introduce a 9 year old to sports. Thank you. 

    I'll admit that swimming is a little hard to get into right now because pools are impacted and at least a couple of the local swim teams have waiting lists. Horseback riding is totally possible, we have friends with daughters in Berkeley who go to El Sobrante or Lafayette for riding. My daughter did karate at that age, which was great; would recommend trying. Yes, indoor stuff makes me nervous too but vaccines are coming so you might as well sign up now. I have heard good things about Albany Berkeley girls softball, which is a spring thing, and volleyball has a local league or two. We also got a trampoline, which is great exercise and teaches body awareness. My daughter also loves her scooter which she just does around the backyard.

    Big picture though, your question was phrased with a lot about you and your history. I know it's hard, but try to approach the subject of sports and exercise with your daughter with less fear and leftover feelings from your childhood. Buy a fun playground ball from Target and go to a school on the weekend to play wallball together. Do an outdoor fitness course together, or a YouTube food ninja workout. It should be fun! I'm sorry you had bad experiences, but your daughter can have a different experience.

    I'm a sports-loving mom, and I coach a girls' soccer team (have coached boys too). There's a large subset of girls who may not be super athletic or even that interested in sports, but they do it because it gives them time with their friends. I would ask around among your daughter's friends and just sign her up to do a sport with a friend. Age 9 is definitely still young enough to be new to a sport without feeling way behind. And there are so many options, including many outdoors. Soccer is great, and it is not at all unusual to pick it up at age 9. There's also softball/little league, lacrosse, track/running, tennis... all kinds of stuff that is relatively covid-safe. But I bet she'd be more likely to stick with it if she had a buddy.

    A while back, the Piedmont Rec department was hosting free clinics to introduce elementary school aged girls to a variety of sports. You could give them a call or get on their mailing list to find out when they'll do that again.

    ABGSL!  Albany Berkeley Girls Softball League. Both our girls started in the ‘80’s and the were involved in sports later at BHS and thru college.  They are proud Giants fans…it carries on.  Mostly it’s just fun team camaraderie at first but the skills are like you said, something to be proud of.  It does help to have a family member to “toss the ball” during the week at home… not just at practice.  
    Also I see there are still tennis lessons at King Jr High courts.  Good Luck.

  • Strength training for 8 and 9 year olds?

    (3 replies)

    My son recently started playing flag football at school, and the coach wants them to do 100 pushups, squats, and calf raises daily. This seems ridiculous and excessive to me, if not downright wrong. The head of the aftercare program agreed with me--then he quit. I told my son that he can do 10 of each a day, and I'd sign off on it. But I can't imagine this is good for the other children. I'm going to email our pediatrician, but I wanted to hear what BPN parents have to say.

    My first thought is that doing all of those exercises daily would be too much effort and could cause some burnout unless your son is really motivated. Maybe every other day or 4-5 times a week is more manageable. I also wouldn't really consider body-weight exercises like that as strength training per se. Doing 100 squats and calf raises doesn't seem difficult and should be easily done in 5-10 minutes. The 100 pushups does seem a lot though. That's pretty strenuous for a kid. I would probably knock that down to 25 or 50.

    I asked a friend of mine about this who has been coaching boys' lacrosse at all levels K-12 for more than 15 years. He said 100 pushups, squats, and calf raises a day for 8 & 9 year olds is crazy and it sounds like the coach is very inexperienced. He said a more experienced coach would know that is way beyond what kids that age can do. It might be appropriate for high schoolers, but for 2nd and 3rd graders he would expect no more than 10 a day. Did the school hire this coach? You should complain to the principal or the PTA or whoever hired the coach that he appears to have never coached kids this age and would benefit from some coaching himself.

    I would suggest that you do exercises together so you can see how he is handling it. Start with ten reps of each, for a week. Work up to higher numbers, at the ebd if each week. If it gets to be to much, level off. 

  • Team sport for 9 & 12 yo just starting out?

    (13 replies)

    Did we totally miss the boat? Or is there something low key out involving practice & teamwork for kids?

    Wasn’t up for the time commitment early on, but now I see the benefits of practice & weathering ups and downs with a steady group of people.  

    Is there a steady group activity which welcomes newbies (boy 9, girl12)?

    -Berkeley parent

    A 12 year old and 9 year old would both be welcome on a recreational soccer team regardless of experience.  Your son will have an easier time finding a team, however, since by age 12, lots of kids have moved up to travel/competitive soccer teams or dropped out.  That being said, there are still some girls' rec level soccer teams around.  I'd recommend contacting either the registrar for Albany Berkeley Soccer Club or the El Cerrito Spurs and ask about team openings.  Fall teams are forming now so it's a good time to inquire.

    For the late fall/winter months, I'd also recommend rec level basketball teams (either through the City of Berkeley or the YMCA).  For the spring months, your daughter may also enjoy playing with the Albany Berkeley Girls Softball League.  It's a very friendly and nurturing organization and I anticipate that the lack of prior experience would not be a problem. Maybe someone else can chime in about Little League teams.

    Martial Arts can be great. We do Kuk Sool Wan. There are lots of older kids and teens as well s adults and a flexible schedule to choose from. Also Basketball or Track tend to start a bit later than other sports.

    Yes there is!  Try

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Son refuses to play sports

Sept 2005

My son is in a soccer league but refuses to play. He has a new excuse every time - I'm tired, it's hot, I'm hungry. Do I stick it out and drag him to games & practices or let him quit? I feel bad for his teammates because they have to play more since he won't. I feel like it is a control issue! HELP! anon

Of course you should let your son quit the soccer team if he doesn't want to play! What could you possibly hope to gain by forcing him to continue? It's only a game -- if he's not enjoying it, he shouldn't be playing it. And if his teammates care about the game, they'll be glad that someone who doesn't want to play is gone. Ask your son what he'd like to do instead, and whatever it is, let him do it! Diane

Sounds like your son really knows that he doesnt' want to play, for whatever reasons. Having a son who didn't like little league, I'd say don't force. It's also really hard for the kids who like the game and want to play to have someone who doesn't want to play (and I assume is not a good player and maybe not a good team member) on the team.

There are plenty of other things your son can find (over the years) to be involved in. Not playing sports is really not the end of the world.

If you force him you could cause more damage than be helpful. What are your expectations of him playing sports? You may have to let go of some vision of how you want him to be. Good luck, I know this is a hard one. anon

You don't mention how old your son is or how long he's been playing or whether he's playing recreational or more competetive soccer, and my advice (as both parent and coach) would vary depending on the circumstances. If this is his first year, he may just not be ready yet, and I would not push it. If he's played for some time and this is his first expression of lack of interest, I would probably push harder to get him to continue. If this has been coming for some time, I'd let him quit. I wouldn't worry about the other kids having to play more. Heck, one of the hardest things as a coach is to divide up the playing time and keep kids on the sideline who WANT to play when a kid who clearly doesn't want to is standing around on the field. Have you talked to his coach about it? That would be where I would start.

My oldest son is very competitive and a total jock and his younger brother is a total anti-jock who hates and resists competition. I was signing my 2nd son up for everything the older one was doing, and it took me a while to realize that son #2 was just not into it. While I do think it is good for a kid to have some kind of exercise, I realize in retrospect that it isn't necessary to force them to do something they dislike, when there are so many other great options available. What kind of kid do you have? Is it the team aspect that he dislikes? Or does he shy away from competition? Or does he need a chance to work more on his skills so he feels more confident? Ask your son what he'd like to do instead. If he doesn't like team sports, there is swimming, tennis, bike riding, martial arts, fencing, skateboarding, climbing, sailing. If he likes being on a team but he just doesn't like soccer, there's baseball, lacrosse, roller hockey, basketball, volleyball, etc. Not sure what age your son is, but these sports are all available to kids in the bay area.

The only reason I can think of for insisting he stick it out is if he asked to sign up for soccer and now is flaking on it. In that case I would urge him to stick out the season, after all he is the one who initiated it. But if you're the one who initiated it, you should help him find out what his own interests are, because we all do well at things that we are interested in. Mom of boys

The first question is: who decided to sign him up for soccer? Him or you? If it's him you have a better case to have him stick by his choice. The second question is his age, 6 or 12? If he's very young don't be too opinionated, or he will end up hating that sport. Last question: is this a pattern? Does he always to that, just to challenge you, or does he really not like soccer?

When my kids were young (bet. 5 and 8) I always wanted to sign them up for the usual soccer/basketball/baseball stuff, it is useless if they don't like it. It frustrate everybody and do not teach them anything. Now they choose their own sports, I'm even a bit reluctent at first to test their motivation and they end up performing and enjoying themselves. Good luck! anon

It seems to me that your son is not enjoying soccer and you expect him to play soccer for some reason (Because he is a boy? Because daddy did it or wants him to? Because his friends do it and it's part of the social circle you want to fit in as a family?). I think exercise is very important, especially in this computerized era, but some children do not like sports and that should be respected. Could you discuss the value of movement with your son and then listen to him and let him choose the exercise he wants? Maybe he'd prefer to run on a track, maybe he's drawn to martial arts or sees a possibility in yoga. Maybe he thinks dancing or ballet would feel great. Maybe water is his element and he's happy everytime he swims. Maybe he doesn't want a regular class and gets to walk the dog and climbs around on playgrounds or likes to kick ball just when he feels like it with friends or family on a grassy field. Please listen to him and ignore what you had in mind for him. He does want to please, but is caught in a situation where he feels that pleasing everyone else is more important than pleasing himself. Let him discover what he loves and all of you will be genuinely happy. Anonymous

maybe your son really hates playing sports. There are some very funny essays about this type of thing by David Sedaris. Your son may not necessarily be gay, but he may really, really hate being forced into this. Why not ask him if he wants to quit?

Don't force it. Take him out. I had the same situation with my son and a different sport. He fought going all the time. There are so many sports to choose from and if it is your goal to get him involved, let him decide which one. My 7 year old loves art so we do art classes. I teach Physical Education and I love sports/fitness and I think it is crazy NOT to do sports at his age (but that is me!) so if he would rather do something else, then so be it. Your child will be drawn to something eventually. When he takes an interest in something just be ready to work with him. Matthew