By Jill “MamaBug” Frier

One of the many wonderful things about living in Arizona is that your kids can participate in a variety of indoor and outdoor sports all year round. There are many great options for getting your kids involved in local sports programs here in the Valley of the Sun. And not only are sports a great way for your kids to have fun, get exercise and stay active, they also teach kids important life lesson like sportsmanship, teamwork and respect.

Whether you want them to participate in team sports or as an individual, here are a few things to keep in mind when you are selecting a sport for your child.

Choose the Right Sport for Your Child
Expose your child to a variety of sports activities, but help them choose a sport that is well suited to their age, interests and abilities. Don’t force your child to participate in a sport that doesn’t really interest them or that isn’t a good fit for their skillset – it’s a waste of both time and money, plus it can have a negative affect on your child’s attitude towards sports. Be sure to pick something that fits your budget and your schedule, to reduce your family’s stress level and make it an enjoyable experience for everyone. And don’t forget to include the cost of equipment, clothing and gear in your budget when you choose a sport!

Here is a short list of some of the popular sports available locally, to give you some ideas about different types of sports that may be fun for your youngster:
• Archery
• Baseball and Softball
• Basketball
• Football
• Golf
• Gymnastics
• Horseback Riding
• Ice Skating and Hockey
• Martial Arts
• Rock Climbing
• Soccer
• Swimming
• Tennis
• Volleyball

Be a Good Fan and Teach Good Sportsmanship
A great way to get your kids to have more fun and be excited about playing sports is to be excited for them. Make sure they get to practice on time, stay to watch, attend games, volunteer to help with the team or individual events if you can and always cheer them on. Make sure that both you and your child understand the basic rules of the sport and be a good role model for your child by not overreacting when the competition doesn’t go your way. Show them that it’s okay to be competitive and disappointed when you don’t win, but that sports are meant to be fun, even if you don’t always beat the opposing team or competitors.

Maintain a Balance with School, Sports and Family
It’s important to keep your child from becoming overwhelmed with sports or competition. Participate in activities that work with your schedule and allow you to balance athletics with school, family and non-athletic hobbies. If your child feels stressed out, hates going to practices and games, or just participates to make you happy, it’s probably a good idea to call it quits.

Resources for Sports in the Valley
How do you find a sport that works well for your kid and their unique interests and skills? There are many resources to help you find sports programs here in Phoenix. A few of the non-profit resources include:
• The City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Commission Youth Sports provides affordable programs and resources for youth basketball, baseball, football, soccer, tennis and volleyball, and provides sports complexes, facilities and Community Centers around the Valley.

• One non-profit organization helping kids through sports is Sports Kids AZ. This group provides quality coaching and athletic programs to home schooled families, after school athletes, and homeless children throughout Arizona.

• The Valley of the Sun YMCA, one of the oldest and largest non-profit organizations in the Phoenix area, offers youth sports programs to help children build skills, learn about teamwork, and focus on sportsmanship. The YMCA offers a variety of sports and fitness programs throughout the year to keep kids active and engaged.

So do your homework and get your kids off the couch, away from their screens and interested in one of the many great sports programs available right here in Phoenix. And be sure to check out Ladybug’s Blog for more articles and recommendations for fun things to do outside with kids everywhere in Arizona!