There's no doubt, team sports offer an array of benefits to kids and the Lowcountry has many great youth sports leagues. But they aren't for everyone, and by the time kids are 11 or so, they know whether they like team sports or not. Many kids, particularly those who are introverted or shy, lack interest in or struggle with team sports. Their parents often get caught up in an endless battle – with their kids kicking and screaming all the way to every practice and game.
Encouraging tweens to participate in some form of extracurricular activity is a good idea—extracurricular activities provide valuable learning opportunities while also keeping them fit. But if your child is introverted, social or group experiences can be particularly stressful and mentally exhausting.
So what can you do to help your child get in some fitness and develop motor skills while still allowing your child to be true to himself or herself? There are plenty of sports and physical activities to choose from that aren't as mentally taxing yet they provide kids plenty of benefits.
Martial arts: This sport is divided into the categories of wrestling, striking, grappling, and weaponry. Many disciplines use a combination of these categories, so it's a good idea to look into several disciplines. Then let your child help decide which style to try. Some of the most popular forms include judo, Tai-Chi, karate, kickboxing, wrestling, Taekwondo, Aikido, and Jiu-Jitsu. Through martial arts, in addition to learning self-defense, kids learn self-discipline and fine-tune their motor skills.
Skateboarding: This solo sport has numerous forms including, but not limited to slalom, freestyle, street, off-road, vert, and park. Skateboarding offers many benefits including overall fitness, endurance, precision, and as many a skateboarder will attest, increased pain tolerance.
Bicycling: This is an excellent form of exercise that improves strength, coordination, and flexibility. There are several forms of bicycling that might appeal to your child such as distance endurance cycling, mountain biking, and stunt riding.
Swimming and diving: Either of these might appeal to your introverted child. Swimming builds strength and endurance while improving cardiovascular fitness. Diving improves agility, strengthens the upper body, particularly the arms, and improves mental focus.
Running: As straightforward as running may sound, there are several forms from which your child can choose. There's adventure running, cross country, road, mountain, track and field, races, and marathon. Whatever the form, it's an excellent cardiovascular workout. It also builds endurance, releases stress, and is a powerful antidepressant.
Kimberly Blaker is a professional freelance writer.