What sport should your kid play?

After I requested requests, Trey Anastasio asked me:

If a parent were to pick a sport for their child to play competitively, what would you suggest? (factoring in cost, commitment, personal development, opportunities provided in life)

I take this to refer to stardom in high school or college, but not beyond.

I am inclined to select tennis.  It doesn’t cost so much, and you can play for most of the rest of your life, without needing a team to back you up.  It is unlikely to injure you very seriously, although arguably it cultivates an attitude of selfishness.  Various areas of track would be reasonable picks too.  If this is restricted to major team sports, I say baseball, mostly to minimize risk of injury or violence.

That said, my overall sense is that levels of competition in all of these areas have become higher than is socially optimal.  Little League success will suffice for a lot of the gains in terms of learning leadership, discipline, and teamwork.  So I would not wish any of these upon a child.  These endeavors have become academic fundraisers where levels of competition are pushed as high as the talent allows, and too often they have become all-consuming pursuits, in violation of Aristotle’s edicts about moderation.  Sports have gone from a very cheap way of educating your child to a very expensive way, yet another example of unmeasured declining productivity in education.

Comments

Why not soccer? It's easy to learn, large amounts of opportunities to play, don't need much equipment or even space like tennis. If you are good, plenty of earning opportunities in Europe, even low divisions are reasonable well paid.

Non-concussion brain injuries from head shots? That seems like a good reason.

head shots

What kind of competitive jerks do you play footbal (it's "footbal", because you kick the ball with your foot, unlike hand-egg) with ?

I think he's referring to hitting the ball with your head, which may cause the same kind of brain injuries that football does.

I think this is very unlikely. Not only does the body of evidence seem far behind what exists for football, anecdotally, ex-soccer professionals simply do not have the type of brain issues that are incredibly common among ex-football players. The protocol for and awareness of actual concussions is at least five years behind football, but these are proportionately rare, especially within youth sports.

Agreed with Steve. The sport is much more mature (has been played a lot longer) than American football and across the globe at that. There's not nearly the reports of downstream brain injuries as those being reported in American football.

I think you're exaggerating the level of evidence for football as a source of injury and underestimating it for soccer.

It was all the rage to suggest that rugby had a lower concussion rate than football, because lack of helmets caused people to be more protective of their heads. But then people started looking into it, and it turned out it was the usual thing - hiding injuries, nobody getting tested, etc.

"There’s not nearly the reports of downstream brain injuries as those being reported in American football."
Key words "being reported." "Incidence in media" and "incidence in reality" are not always tightly correlated.

I agree. Given the survey of literature I've read is relatively inconclusive, it should be studied more with an emphasis on the effects of heading during adolescent years. I have to think that as the brain is developing there's a higher susceptibility to damage. It should also be noted that the synthetic balls that are currently played with are much more forgiving then the leather ones of years ago.

That said, I'll acknowledge my priors and bias in this discussion and step aside so that all those 'evidence based' commentators can enlighten us.

From my experience, children actually successfully heading the ball, even in competitive soccer leagues, is very infrequent. Its a hard shot with much chance of a mistake. If you are really concerned about this risk then have your child play in defense or as the goalkeeper. They very very rarely head even at professional levels. Actually goalkeeper in soccer is probably the prime spot to go through if you were looking at Soccer as a career. There is far less competition and goalkeepers can perform at high levels for decades.

As others have noted, injuries are actually quite common in soccer, but they are mostly of the strained ankle type (although there are occasional collisions which could be more severe). Its rare though that one hears of young prospects being invalided out of the game. So the investment in your kid is highly likely to pay off if they have the skills. Also on the upside, soccer play is constant though the full 90 mins and its a very aerobic sport. So even if your kid flunks out, he will have likely learned some good long term fitness habits. Plus you can get a pick up soccer game just about anywhere in the world, its a great way to meet new people.

"have your child play in defense or as the goalkeeper.. They very very rarely head even at professional levels."

No, no and no. Defenders and forwards are the most head shot hitters, especially in UK and UK influenced countries where running along the line and crossing in is very popular.

Goalkeepers, besides by job description having to stop balls being kicked as hard as possible and from as close as possible in their direction, are often head-butted (more or less non intentionally) where defending on flying balls and risk being kicked on the head when they have to save low in a crowded penalty area (I know, I used to be one).

If concussions worry you, midfielders, especially central midfielders, are the way to go: they risk their legs and knees, but head-wise they are usually fine, besides the occasional elbowing, which is much less of a problem than it used tt be 20 years ago since you get a direct red card for that now.

It's called "football" because it's played on foot, as opposed to on horseback (see here).

Nah, the brain damage is in the spectators, not the players.

Soccer would be my pick. Low injury risk is another pro you did not mention.

The National High School Sports Injury Surveillance Study 2012-2013 finds HS football to be the most dangerous sport (3.87 injury rate per 1,000 athlete exposures), followed by boy's wrestling (2.33), girls soccer (2.29), girl's basketball (1.83), boy's soccer (1.52), boy's basketball (1.47), girl's softball (1.15), and boy's baseball (0.88).

I'm not sure how injuries are defined, but I suspect a high portion of soccer injuries are not a big deal, i.e., strained muscles

There's a paper out there, which I'm struggling to find, that calls it the most dangerous sport.

Concussions, and knee and ankle ligament tears are the big offenders in soccer. Nobody really knows how bad heading the ball is for you, but it's probably comparable to football head injury effects.

For post-pubescent girls, it's very high risk: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/11/magazine/11Girls-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

And, I agree with Ted as well with respect to girl's soccer. The article confirms my anecdotal evidence that a higher incidence of knee injuries occur in girl's relative to boy's soccer.

I know a lot of serious to semi-serious soccer players, and serious injuries (ankles, knees, groin, head) are not uncommon, especially in pickup games, but even with a prepared field and with an umpire it far from a low-risk sport. It's by far the most dangerous sport for women, though I think it's a great sport for girls. It's also far easier to play basketball into middle age than it is to safely play soccer into middle age. I also think some people are naive about the subtle brain damage of headers. It's definitely not as bad as in college and pro football, but those are not trivial knocks to the noggin.

Agreed. I think the fact that you can play soccer in almost any space with almost any number of people is a huge advantage for the sport. In fairness, basketball works similarly given the density of basketball hoops in America, but the competitive aspect will be a problem for many kids who care about that sort of thing -- raw athleticism is much more important relative to skill in basketball than in soccer. (Interpreting the question as the more pragmatic "what is the optimal sport to pick as a kid is developing," rather than "what will have had the best cost-benefit ratio given the assumption your kid ends up as a HS star in the sport of your choice.")

"raw athleticism is much more important relative to skill in basketball than in soccer"

interesting assertion.

You can't coach height!

But you can learn to shoot. However, if you are a slow runner, it's unlikely you will ever be able to improve that greatly.

I agree with this. Basketball is such a great sport. You can just choose not to head the ball very much in soccer, but there are still more high speed collisions. I'm not sure you can really play basketball for longer though. There are styles of play in both sports that make it possible, it just depends on what you are satisfied with.

It's probably best to start with basketball and then transition to tennis later on. The nice thing about tennis is that the disadvantage women face against men is not nearly as pronounced.

No children of mine will be allowed to play football. A stunning majority of my football-playing friends have broken either one or more menischi or their cruciate ligaments.
Greetings from Italy.

Tennis need not be selfish, if one plays doubles.

I realize that the question was "one sport", but I think that many sports complement each other. If I were to suggest tennis, I would suggest that it be paired with ping pong (out of the sun, keeps your eye sight sharp, and keeps your reflexes sharp).

+1 for both of these. Can play ping-pong anywhere and for the rest of your life.

For a lot of people high school is hell. I played football and rugby and had a blast. Learning to hit and get hit is useful well after high school and there exists a bond among young men who played contact team sports that is invaluable.

I agree -- football was the most damn fun I ever had. It's definitely worth the risks. Just make sure your kid goes to a small high-school so they don't have to line up against future NCAA D1 players.

Another vote for football - I played and loved it - and as a father of a very averagely athletic son, it's been great for him to make the team - the confidence he's gained over the years from being part of the team - much less lifting weights, etc - has been tremendous.

Plus girls.

And if you do find the threat of injury troublesome but you appreciate the other skills necessary for these sports: there's always touch rugby and flag football.

My son played football in high school and I think that it was probably the most rewarding thing he did during his four years. He learned discipline, team work and determination. I watched some of his games from the sideline as a minor official working the chains and one thing I noted is that it is a good thing for young men to run, hit and tackle. They are brimming with testosterone and aggression and football is a way of burning some of that off. He played one year in DIII, but was really too small to continue as a lineman and did not play after that.

My wife and I found that the kids who played sports in high school (and before) were generally well-balanced (wholesome, in fact), stayed out of trouble and had better success in academics. The busier they were, the better organized they were. So I say that it is more important to play any sport competitively, than to pick the optimum one.

You don't burn off testosterone. Engaging in agressive sports increases it.

Soccer is a I played rugby growing up. As a real nerd, it was the best decision I made to that point in my life. Nothing builds you up and builds your credibility with others like a contact sport. And I think the people above who think soccer is low injury risk are kidding themselves.

Also, rugby allows for diverse body types. Good luck playing high school tennis if you're five foot ten. In fact, I think you ought to think hard about the kid's body type, if you want some sort of success.

[Dropping some rouge typing...]

I played rugby growing up. As a real nerd, it was the best decision I made to that point in my life. Nothing builds you up and builds your credibility with others like a contact sport. And I think the people above who think soccer is low injury risk are kidding themselves.

Also, rugby allows for diverse body types. Good luck playing high school tennis if you’re five foot ten. In fact, I think you ought to think hard about the kid’s body type, if you want some sort of success.

Egad,... "rogue."

Why can't you play high school tennis at 5'10"? Are you too short to serve strongly, or are you too tall to move well? 5'10" seems like a totally acceptable height for tennis to me, and I also look at tennis as a sport that offers different styles for different body types, especially a relatively average height like 5'10".

I wouldn't think you'd be competitive. My wife played varsity tennis in college, and though she's two or three inches above average female height, it was an impediment and she needed to work hard to overcome it.

I suppose it depends on the school.

World class males seem to be about 6'1" or 6'2". There aren't a lot of modern pros shorter than 6', but I can't imagine that 5'10" is too short for high school and even elite college.

Maybe you're right. I had the impression it was a taller sport than that.

"Learning to hit and get hit is useful." Please explain further.

Occasionally, situations present themselves where a physical response is appropriate. It would be great if that were not true, but it is.

If a mugger is running off with a lady's purse, an individual with experience tackling someone will be in a better position to assist the lady whose grocery cash is near vanishing than one who is not. Similarly, if one sees someone being physically bullied-perhaps even to the point where that persons safety is seriously jeopardized- a background in physical contact will assist your efforts in helping the endangered party.

Additionally, if you are physically attacked- or just do something silly and lose your balance- experience falling on your a## can be valuable as well.

Seems like wresting or one of the martial arts would be more useful and instructive in that regard.

My understanding about martial arts training in real-world fight situations (from people with a fair amount of exposure to real-world fights - bouncers and bartenders) is that it is usually worse than useless. The martial artist pauses to get his stance, in which time the other party has clocked him over the head with a beer bottle, knocking him out.

I agree that some experience taking and/or giving a punch is valuable, not so much in the expectation of engaging in violence but because experience reduces fear and one can respond to threatening situations more rationally. I don't know how much weight I'd give that in choosing a child's sport, though.

What, no mention of chess? The Soviets, via Vladimir Lenin's supreme commander of the Soviet army, Nikolay Krylenko, promoted chess as a cheap form of instructive entertainment for the masses. Granted, in the USA that won't get you the girls, but if you're after high school girls, try football and live with any health problems that may come later.

I thought we were talking about sports.

B.F. Skinner has cast a long shadow.

In Mein Kampf, the author recommended boxing as a sport for youth.

Boxing isn't quite SWPL-approved, ya know.

Track and field. There is no cheating, bad luck, and players who let you down (for the most part). Develop a running habit and the chances are good you'll stay healthy for the rest of your life, not succumb to depression, and develop a realistic sense of your physical boundaries as an adult.

Having said that, I don't think there is one sport which works for everybody. Kids who are drawn to the team element of football or baseball might find track and field boring. Same for tennis players who enjoy being start-and-stop prima donnas.

I think bad luck and other players letting you down is a good lesson to internalize. You can do everything right and shit still happens. A teammate could screw up or a quarterback could escape two sacks and chuck the ball down the field and have caught against the helmet of a receiver who would never again catch a pass in a professional game. Shit happens, the universe is random.

But who the hell sprints for fun at age 30? An actual sport is something you can enjoy doing while getting exercise.

I didn't run track in HS, but as soon as the snow melts I'll be at the local track running sprint intervals 2-3x a week. I'd much rather run the 100m 15 times than jog for 3 miles.

Running does not imply sprinting.

I'm well into my 30's and enjoying ultra-endurance trail running, after getting into it in my late 20's. Many of my acquaintances are in their 50's, 60's and above and enjoying it as much as they always have.

'there is no cheating..'

The entire 2000 Olympic Track team the USA fielded in Sydney was juiced.

As regards 'staying healthy the rest of your life', ask an orthopedist what per cent of his arthroscopy practice is from running injuries.

I suspect that the biggest users of performance enhancing drugs on the entire planet are US track and field athletes. Drug testing means nothing to them because they're two steps ahead and easily evade detection. Marion Jones was only discovered because she was ratted out; otherwise she would've stayed undetected indefinitely. Similarly, Lance Armstrong always boated how he'd never failed a drug test.

It is not only US i can guarantee you. There are other countries with advanced doping programmes in Europe. Others not so advanced (Russia)

"Others not so advanced (Russia)"
Wait, what? In any event, India, with both the largest number of T&F violations with nary a medal to show for it, takes the not-so-advanced cake.

Please. Quit the hate. The other athletes are just as juiced. Look at the baseball world. They call two decades the "steroid era". And Lance Armstrong wasn't a track and field athlete. Get a clue.

I found it really funny that people complained about the air pressure in the balls at the Super Bowl when there are guys on the field with the testosterone of 40 men injected into their system...

Honestly, I'm not bothered by the doping, I'm bothered by the lying about it. It's nice to see sports like powerlifting that have tested and non-tested organizations.

I've done kickboxing, boxing, MMA, and various other combat sports. While I've had injuries in all of them, the only long term problems I have is knee damage from when I was a runner.

Wrestling should rank high on this list. It instills more grit than any of the high profile "tough" sports, without any of the risks of long term injury. It's cheap. It keeps kids in great shape.

Paradoxically, wrestlers also seem to be really gentle people outside of their sport, especially compared to other high testosterone sports. Few feel any need to prove their strength.

No wrestler ever dreams about being rich from wrestling. For most Americans, college is seen as the end point (with Olympics as secondary pipe dream few even want to attempt).

A number of persons who loved wrestling in my high school are now avid fans of MMA stuff and a hooligan lifestyle. YMMV.

>without any of the risks of long term injury.

Does cauliflower ear count?

+1 for the worlds oldest and greatest sport. I personally think I learned more from high school wrestling than anything else.

You get in fantastic shape. No one practices as hard as wrestlers. Plus you develop physical and mental toughness. You learn to step out by yourself into a pretty scary situation, what is essentially a fight. Repeatedly facing that situation gives you tons of confidence.

Don't forget the herpes too!

I was under the impression that wresting led to many painful and potentially debilitating joint injuries and I also cannot bring myself to believe that cutting weight is a harmless practice.

I know many former wrestlers and don't know of any with joint injuries. And as far as cutting weight they have essentially done away with that. They now closely monitor weight and you can't really drop much.

However, for me the cutting weight was a nice skill to learn and one that has served me well as an adult. If the old waist line starts expanding I know how to take action and get thing right in short order.

Seconded, I wrestled for 5 years and it was a blast. Downside: a huge part of my team was on steroids for parts of the year.

The anorexia culture around high school wresting is pretty bad.

One disadvantage of wrestling is that people don't play it as an adult.

I personally fence. There are ample youth events, and amateur competitive opportunities for adults in any metro area, and over-40 "veterans" events. See www.askfred.net . However, it is expensive to get started.

-dk

as I mentioned in another comment, a lot of adults compete in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu/submission grappling, and most of the skills from wrestling transfer over.

Electronic judging ruined foil. First there was the flick, which is awful, and now there are the countermeasures to the flick which are arguably worse.

Only concern with wrestling I'd have is the unhealthy weight cutting.

Wrestling is also a good base if you want to train in brazilian jiu jitsu later in life.

If you're looking to use sports as a means to get into a top school, I would suggest ones that are not played as high a rate by the wealthy or high-achievers, such as baseball or football, sports where the Ivy League does not actually have very good teams. On a per time basis of practice, it is much easier to get into a good college (at least the non-sports scholarship Ivy League) by being smart and a mediocre first baseman than by being smart and playing tennis.

For a young child:

1) Swimming. To reduce the chance of him drowning in a pool or at the beach, and as a foundation for enjoying other water activities in the future.

2) Boxing. To develop eye hand coordination, and for self defense.

3) Skiing (if affordable/convenient). Seems a good time to learn, when the risk of injury is low, and can be a fun, family winter activity for decades.

4) Baseball (if in US). So he or she will be competent at softball as an adult.

Im a huge boxing fan, but theres no way I would want my kid to do it. Too much head trauma.

1) Is being a good swimmer associated with reduced risk of drowning? I doubt it. More likely, just the opposite.

3) Skiing is low injury risk?

Cross-Country skiing yes, but alpine skiing ....

Among young children, kids with swimming lessons are more likely to drown than those without. (Of course, they're also more likely to be in or near the water.) Not sure if that holds through HS years as well.

Swimming is the only sport that can save your life. ONE swim lesson reduces the risk of drowning by some insane amount. Swimmers don't drown, non-swimmers drown.

Swimming is basically an injury free sport. The only injuries I have ever seen were entering or exiting the pool. None of them serious.

A full body work out that builds strength and cardiovascular health. It can also combine the best of team and individual competition. You are swimming for your best time, but also your teams.

I find it to be the perfect sport!

"Swimmers don’t drown, non-swimmers drown."

This is obviously false. At least some drownings are experienced swimmers who go too far or behave dangerously around water. People who don't know how to swim rarely get swept away by currents at the beach, for example.

I think swimming is good, but statistically it's not obvious that swimming knowledge would be associated with fewer drownings. Evidence of that is needed.

2. Boxing as an activity is great to participate in (punching the bags, hitting mits, skipping rope, etc.). Boxing as a sport to compete in is a roll of the dice when it comes to injury.

It is not a roll of the dice. Your brain will be injured.

That's ridiculous and I want to brown the rambleshack alligator. Kapow!

Martial Arts: "After a 3-month intervention, results indicated that the martial arts group demonstrated greater improvements than the comparison group in areas of cognitive self-regulation, affective self-regulation, prosocial behavior, classroom conduct, and performance on a mental math test." doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2004.04.002

Of course I'd suggest Kung Fu so your children can learn some Chinese. I suspect it will become a useful language...

If by martial arts you mean the likes of Kung Fu/Karate/Aikido, then you're better off having your kid do nothing.

That stuff is just LARP-ing with ZERO actual fighting involved.

Highly variable. Some, likely most, schools are non-contact for kids and non-realistic contact for adults. Older schools frequently have plently of contact.

You visited the wrong school(s)

Unlike, what, football? Baseball? We're talking about kid's sports here. Coordination and self-discipline are great things for kids to learn.

spoken like true yuppies, folks

I know, right? Those coordinated, disciplined yuppie kids suck compared to wild ass spazzy non-yuppie kids.

The risk with things like Karate and Kung Fu is that you're telling the kids you're teaching them how to fight when you're really teaching them a form of traditional dance.

It's better to have them actually bump into one another.

Out of all of your TapouT shirts, which one do you think looks best on you?

My Affliction shirts go better with my tattoo sleeves.

Exactly, was surprised few commentators mentioned this. Good fitness and self-control, self-defence skills, and I've seen elderly practitioners still training, as flexible as rubber bands. Depending on the school and martial art there can be less, more, or no full force strikes to the head.

I concur.

If your eally value the competitive side, judo or taekwondo are probably the best. If competition is less important than physical conditionning, karate and aikido are much less injury-prone. I am not knowledgeable enough to speak about Chinese martial arts.

As for the self-defense aspect, it depends more on the teacher than on the martial art itself. Just tour the dojos around you and look for the values the the teacher emphasises.

Ultimate frisbee. Still ruled by the Spirit of the Game rather than referees, although that ethos is gradually decaying. High aerobic demands as well as sprinting and jumping. And private universities' academic quality is correlated with the quality of their Ultimate frisbee clubs. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/05/education/edlife/sports.html?_r=0

This is coming from someone who absolutely love ultimate frisbee: If injury risk is an important factor, ultimate may not be for your kid. This was the one sport that had to be removed from our intramural sports selection at my school simply because the injury rate was way too high. Maybe if taught well this can be avoided, but two people running directly at one another an jumping up in the air (not to mention frequently landing awkwardly) results in a lot of ugly injuries. At least it did when we had a large number of relatively unsophisticated 18-25 year olds playing.

Basketball. Easy fit for any number of players.

I agree. One of the few sports that can be enjoyable when played alone, or one on one, or with up to 10 players. Court size is extremely variable, and almost anyone can put up a basketball standard next to their driveway. Easy to create house rules or play variants. Relatively low injury rate unless you're playing with the wrong people. Minimal equipment costs.

Basketball totally sucks if you're short.

@Dan Hill - not true, basketball is very popular in the vertically-challenged Philippines, and their national team recently won second place, beating much taller teams, before losing to Iran, in a pan-Asian competition.

Tennis is good.

If you've got the money, golf is the greatest low risk sport, since playing it can open up an entire field of art, golf course architecture, that is otherwise invisible to people.

There are two parts to this question: (1) What HS sport team is one most likely to make (2) Assuming one makes the HS sport team which one is the best one to be on?

Football is likely the easiest team for a boy to join, but it offers little reward to the marginal athlete. It offers great reward to the exceptional athlete but then that is true with all sports! My choice for the best team to be on (assuming one will not be a starter) is baseball. Practices are fun and there is little if any running till you puke as you have in football and basketball. Plus the baseball uniform is cool.

Assuming one is good enough to "start" then golf and tennis should top the list. However, in affluent areas there is a lot of competition to be the starter on these teams so that needs to be a consideration.

"Plus the baseball uniform is cool."

I beg to differ. That uniform ... cool?

Ummm, how about whichever sport(s) he's, you know, likely to enjoy and be reasonably good at (the two being a bit related)?
Having said that, among the less popular options with life-long health benefits, there's rowing (for the slow-twitchers), olympic lifting (for fast-twitchers), and shooting (for the less athletic, anal-types)?

Hear hear! As they say in weight loss/fitness circles, the best exercise is the one you want to stick with. Let the kid develop a natural inclination towards the sport they're most likely to enjoy.

How about swimming? It may seem solitary, but there is an incredible level of friendly-competitive camaraderie, far higher than most team sports. Very low injury risk (If you take care of your shoulders) and very physiologically rounded excercise. Probably The Best sport to teach a kid the value of Grit and discipline as there is a direct Relationship between amount of training and results. Also an adult swimming career is no pipedream to lure kids away from more valuable pursuits.

+1 on swimming and camaraderie. My kid is pretty shy and goes to a big school, but found the swim team welcoming (and it's not like he's the star). Also, it's a lifelong sport. With baseball, chances are good that after high school, you will literally never play baseball again (softball, maybe).

As a former swimmer, I disagree a little bit on the camaraderie, mostly because I compare it to similar land sports like cross country in which the athletes can actually talk to each other while training! As far as swimming being low commitment, unless your school's program is pretty easy-going (only one short-ish practice) per day, swimming is not at all a low time commitment sport, and you smell like chlorine all winter long. That said, the benefit of being an excellent swimmer is a truly worthwhile skill throughout your life, and it is an amazingly good way to casually stay in shape as an adult. It is also pretty wonderful not having to be afraid of the ocean.

maybe bevise they can't talk while they train the between training chatter is so much more engaging? Swimming is Very demanding - my kid at 12 trains almost 7 Hours a week. And he is about to ramp it up to 12. But that is good isn't it? Less time to get in trouble...

@derek - increased cancer risk due to chlorine, drowning risk if you dive deep and swim the length of the pool, and if swimming becomes more popular you will have to compete with more people in the pool. On the plus side, they are moving away from chlorinated pools, at least in Australia I hear, by using salt water pools to cut down on bacteria in pool water. As I say, chess (a sport) is better.

Ray, the oceans & salt water pools are teeming with bacteria.

How about dancing? It's arguably not a sport, but there are competitions around it if you want to go that route. It's a useful skill to have for social reasons. Young boys probably benefit disproportionately because of the demographics. Boys learn how to deal with girls from a young age, removing what's a huge fear/barrier for many. Both sexes get nice benefits when it comes to their appearance. There's a lot of culture to it, depending on the discipline.

Yeah, I was going to mention ballroom. Highly competitive if you want it to be, but very casual otherwise, and a great confidence builder. My daughters are doing it.

Assuming life-time accumulated utility, golf is a great choice. You can play into your 90s without injury, and according to my fitbit an 18-hole game is a 9-10km walk. Golf just twice a week and you walk the equivalent of 2 marathons a month.

Also, at 15-years of age i specialized in basketball and dropped ice hockey and soccer. Now at 40+yrs i'm pleased with the choice; I can still play basketball regularly with players my age and younger at a more competetive level than soccer (skill premium on speed) or hockey (higher risk of injury). Had i instead chosen one of the latter two, I'd most likely no longer play, at a great cost to calrie burning/muscle building in later age.

I played lots of sports, got hurt in many. I took up golf late and wished I had done it much sooner in life. Great sport with lots of character-building qualities if it is learned properly and you can play for life. Also, most of my best friends have come from playing golf.

Putin would suggest judo and chess.

Tennis - spoken like a true yuppie.

Personally, I'd recommend judo. Though I doubt the average soccer mom would approve of little Tyler getting thrown around.

My criterion is: a sport you will enjoy more as an adult for having acquired proficiency as a youngster.

In my experience this eliminates any game requiring large times and/or large areas including football, soccer, baseball. Grownups don't play these games very much.
It also eliminates sports where youth proficiency doesn't matter. People picking up running in middle age converge very quickly to the level of people with decades of experience.

What is left? Tennis, basketball, skiing, golf. Grownups engage in these activities all the time and the ones who are really good enjoy them much more, and the ones who excelled as youngsters are almost always the ones who are really good.

I know a few grownups who do martial arts but mostly they are too hard on the body for middle aged people.

Based on your criterion, I'm quite in agreement with your 4 sports (tennis, basketball, skiing, golf).

Of all my 40ish friends, the ones who are still doing the sports they were good at while they were kids are in these four. People I know who played football, soccer, volleyball, and especially ice hockey are all doing something different (or no substitution at all). Some have turned to rock-climbing and running/triathalons etc., but you don't need childhood proficiency to get high utility from these as adults.

People still play soccer into their mid 30s-early 40s

I coached boys (travel) baseball when my Godson was growing up. He was an outstanding player, fast and strong, a power hitter with a cannon for an arm. My experience with the boys was wonderful; with their parents, not so much. I often comment that if it weren't for clients and other lawyers, being a lawyer would be a great job. In boys baseball, if it weren't for the parents, it would have been the time of my life. Parents ruin baseball. They probably ruin other sports as well, but my unfortunate interaction with them came in baseball. When I was growing up, I played basketball for my segregated public schools. I thought I was good, until we played against teams from integrated schools - I was just a slow white guy who couldn't jump. My favorite sport was golf, to which I was devoted. In summer, each day I'd be at the (public) golf course at dawn and stay until past dark, practicing, playing, and learning life's most important lessons with the two wonderful (black) men who worked in the clubhouse, Rudy and Bill. Come to think of it, I can't recall ever seeing any parents at the golf course, at least not the parents of the other kids who played golf. It was a wonderful experience.

Working with kids is ruined by their parents. I've always been astounded at the actions of the parents.

+1.

What is the purpose of athletics? It seems to me that the most likely outcome for youth athletics is a lifelong injury. A scholarship is a pipe dream for most.

I always say that if parents cares half as much for academics as they do for travel baseball, our schools would be the best in the world.

The purpose is getting girlfriends in high school and college.

Pick an obviously dangerous sport that you don't need to do often...

I appreciate the perspective, but in the post-Tiger era, golf parents can be as bad as the rest.

About once a year I'll see someone on the range dressing down their five-year-old like he just lit the neighborhood on fire because he won't stay back on his six iron and draw it as the instructor suggested. Absolutely horrifying.

After (of course) cricket, I'd recommend sailing. For the winter rugby, which failing soccer. For solitary pleasure shooting is OK. Squash is good fun but you meet more girls at badminton, which is also good fun. To make young children agile - which helps in most sports - send them to classes in Scottish Country Dancing. It'll also encourage decent taste in music. Eschew golf.

If, and its a big if, sailing is an option, it is a good one. It is all life lessons.

Tennis is massively expensive; there's a saying that money is the root of all tennis.
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-08-24/want-your-kid-to-win-the-open-spend-400-000-on-lessons

You can't get away from spending huge amounts of (on) one-on-one time with a coach.

Far better risk/reward elsewhere.

"In 2010, the Navy, with the help of Gallup, identified seven sports that breed athletes who have the highest rate of becoming a SEAL—water polo, swimming, triathlons, lacrosse, boxing, rugby, and wrestling. Of that group, water polo players had the highest odds of making through SEAL training, odds that doubled if they played the sport in college."

Not football, basketball, baseball, or soccer.

My daughter is doing ballet, but she is there mostly to learn that sometimes she has to follow rules occasionally. Her parents are somewhat challenged in this area, and it would be hypocritical for us to lecture her on the subject. I could care less if she learns ballet. I will enroll her in some form of contact sports to learn how to respond to aggression, both internal and external. After that it will depend on her interests. I intend to use sports as part of her life to help her become a stronger individual. I'm skeptical of sports teaching teamwork. Most jocks I've met are egotistical, selfish bastards.

At 38, I still box. I'll switch to some form of grappling soon. Combat sports do have some risks, but we face more driving to and from work. Boxing gyms are dying, and being white puts a target on your back, so maybe not the best thing to get a kid involved in today. However, they are places that have an intergenerational camaraderie I don't see in other sports. Football, for instance, seems to mostly be high school field for 4 years to recliner for the next 60. The oldest boxer in my gym is 60+ and the coaches are frequently older.

I gather that, for reasons that have more to do with their selection process than their job, SEALs average quite small. You can't run that much and be a big guy. So that makes it harder to get in from a traditional sporting background.

Boxing and wrestling are weight-classed and rugby has diverse body types. And obviously comfort and calmness in the water helps.

It's not the least bit surprising that water polo players would have a good chance to do well in Navy Seal training. Both of those activities have a strong focus on endurance and swimming.

The whole point of the question seems to have been to imitate Cowen's writing style.

I think Tyler screwed up the formatting.

This explains so much about the MR commentariat. You all have brain damage from playing football. Hah, jk

I'm surprised no one mentioned golf. Drop a few hundred on some clubs but they will last years. Think of the networking skills junior will acquire. For pure signaling alone that is your pick.

And also one of the most, if not the most, expensive sport for parents.

While I agree that golf can be a good choice, you have to keep in mind that every time you play you have to pay greens fees, which even at the cheapest public course add up pretty fast.

I don't know if it's still true, but I was once told there's a shortage of female golfers, with plenty of scholarship opportunities for young women as a result.

Video games??

Chess or golf. Kids are meant to be enjoyed, and those two sports let you maximize both your enjoyment and time with them well into your own dotage.

The problem with golf is that it is a really hard game! To enjoy playing golf competitively requires a certain mindset and skillset few people have. Remove the competitive part and golf can be quite enjoyable, but than it becomes more a social activity and not as sport.

From a physical development perspective, tennis is no good. Too likely to build imbalances. As someone who played catcher throughout Little League (i.e., throwing a baseball a lot), I can say with confidence that young athletes should probably avoid sports that stress only one side of their body.

Soccer seems like a great choice. Lots of running, lots of skill development, lots of fun. I also like ultimate frisbee, for many of the same reasons, except that it tends to encourage overuse of one arm, though not with the same magnitude as a sport like baseball or tennis.

That said, I would actually be most inclined to put my child (male or female) into dance or gymnastics, at least until middle school. The people I know with a dance or gymnastics background (the ones who stopped before injuries started piling up) are exceptionally coordinated and find it easy to pick up new physical skills. They also tend to be a whole lot more flexible and mobile than the average person as adults.

In terms of the other factors (i.e., non-physical development and opportunities), I think they are all about the same. It's just a sport not a career.

kids should learn to be proficient at as many as possible - being able to play tennis, cycle, run, catch and throw a ball all are great skills to have in life.
play a team sport in your high school so that you can conitnue to play it when you go away to college : it's a great way of extending your circle of friends.

In terms of what is the BEST one to play a lot depends on your body type and coordination. 6 foot 4 with long legs, but can't catch a ball? be a rower. 5 foot 9 and ultra skinny? run. 130kg can can run pass and tackle ? rugby. It's not rocket science.

100% agree. For more I highly recommend the book, "The Sports Gene" by David Epstein.

There seems to be little contemplation here (in the comments or in Tyler's post) about how choice of a sport affects one's likely peer group or social/cultural influences. In that regard, one might find evidence (at least anecdotal) that, for example, lacrosse would be a poor choice, because lacrosse seems to breed a particularly virulent form of douchebag. Meanwhile, soccer players tend to end up with more "cosmopolitan" sensibilities, since the best soccer is played overseas. Etc.

See mood affiliation comments below.

Judo- the activity can be pursued casually for many years post school and being able to throw an aggressor on the ground might be really useful.

Archery- it has a zenlike concentration to it and can be used for general fitness clear into old age (with lighter bows)

Carpentry- not a sport but it could be some very light exercise, super useful and can be pursued until death. There are competitions locally for youth to create things.

Botchi bowling- okay, its an elderly person activity but it is social and can be done their whole life.

One more
Dog training- there are a wide variety of dog training competitions, some of which have a lot of exercise like tracking. The kids learn to be patient, firm, consistent and get a friend out of the activity. Although im sure its also the most expensive.

I specifically tried to come up with non school sports because school sports have become so poisoned with hyper competition. I am glad to see other comments stating something similar. Isnt the point to have some athletic fun? That is not what I see in my local schools.

+1 for archery. Also, it comes in handy after the zombie apocalypse.

I've fenced off and on since college, and I am encouraging both of my kids to give it a try. (I am not very good, incidentally.) It isn't terribly convenient, because not many others do it and you do have to get yourself the kit, but it teaches discipline, fast-paced critical thinking and problem solving, improves posture and coordination at least as much as dance, and if you do it regularly it builds strength like you wouldn't believe. Also, for mysterious reasons a lot of people seem to think it is cool, so in my experience it increases your dating attractiveness.

The downside of both is that, being weaponized, they potentially raise the stakes on sibling rivalry.

Indoor rock climbing. Requires strength, balance, flexibility and problem solving skills. Pretty safe in the gym.

It's also IMO much less dependent on natural athleticism and more on cultivated skill and practice.

High school football gave a kid like me a great chance.

I was a big clumsy kid with horrible hand-eye coordination. Still have bad hand-eye coordination.
But playing both defensive and offensive line gave me a chance that no other sport did.

As my high school football coach said in an awards ceremony, Spencer is one of the guys we do not trust with the ball !

But at least I earned awards and recognition throughout the school.

Interesting point re football. It's one of the few sports that has positions suited to every body type. You can be big and lumbering, small and quick, or heck even small and lumbering (if you can punt).

Really? It seems like you can only be small and quick if you're quite strong/solid too. I don't think there's anything a naturally narrow-framed person can do in football (besides punt as you mentioned).

Wideout? If you're tall, thin, and fast, that works.

If you're narrow framed and short you're pretty much stuck with endurance sports like cycling and running, where it's a major advantage to be carrying less mass.

At the HS level, you can definitely be thin and still play on the edges. We're not talking Division I-A aspirations here.

Here's my quick comments on tennis.

Great as a sport for the sake of sport for kids or adults. For most players, it's relatively cheap; you tend to be matched up against players of a similar skill level (the USTA NTRP rating for adults or ball color for kids) so the competition is good. If you're in great shape (or want to be), then singles is terrific exercise; if you're in bad shape or older, then you can play doubles effectively until the day you die. However, if you want a sport for your kid for the purpose of getting a college scholarship and your kid is a boy in particular, then tennis is an expected money loser.

Some background - I played HS tennis, but not college tennis, never had a lesson growing up and still haven't. Mostly dropped the game when I went to college. By the time I was 33, I was quite overweight, took tennis back up to get in shape and dropped 30 pounds in the first year and am still playing regularly 5 years because of many different aspects to the game (skill, quickness, endurance, tactics, mental toughness). I'm now a high 4.5, but that's probably close to my ceiling without lessons, but there's not much point to lessons at that point as an adult as I can play reasonably competitively with everyone in town. And yes, as you get better, the sport is more fun - you spend less time trying to avoid errors, more shots are available, the tactical and mental side become more important.

I also end up playing regularly with the local starting HS and college players. At most of the HSs, the starters are a mix of players like me and players who have had some lessons, though not necessarily a lot. But at the HS that regularly wins state, the entire starting lineup not only takes lessons, but regularly goes off for semesters at a time to tennis academies. (Not Bolleteri, but other ones). Not one of the kids at that HS has gone on to be even a D1 player. That's because of the huge number of international players that come to the US on college tennis scholarships. They could probably squeeze into the lineup at a minor D1 school, but they all come from families where just getting a degree from any university isn't good enough. There is one kid in town that expects to play major D1 tennis and could go anywhere, which seems likely as he's #1 in the Section. But he's homeschooled so he can have 4-6 hours a day just to train for tennis. He's never been off to one of the academies.

Explaining my caveat on "boys" - as with pretty much all sports (gymnastics and horseback riding may be the exceptions that prove the rule) there simply are more boys playing tennis *competitively* than girls, but the number of slots at college remains the same (and sometimes fewer). Interestingly, at the adult recreational level, the number of men and women tennis players tend to be about the same.

My son has fenced for 10+ years, and I'd recommend it for kids. They call it "physical chess" - lots of strategy, but also physical. Hard to follow but once you get it, exciting to watch. It's not too expensive BUT if you're good and want to face real competition and you're not in one of the major metro areas, you have to travel (so that's expensive and time consuming). People are also pretty friendly/welcoming, although some are very competitive. It's also something you can do most of your life - I still see 50-60 year olds do it for fun (I tried to pick it up in my late 40s, but I was too much of an old dog for that new trick.) Only don't do it because you think it's an edge to college or to get a scholarship - I don't think the expected value of that is worth it for any sport (even if you're kid is good enough, the cost/benefit is not there, and you don't want to create pressure to continue just for that).

Am I the only one here wondering if that up there ^^^ was *the* Trey Anastasio?? #fluffhead

You are not. I still have not given up hope. #lawnboy

In Gamehenge, Wilson is one of the Very Serious People as compared to the Lizards.

So, are Trey's kids out somewhere playing quidditch then? I also vote Soccer, though Tennis is a great sport. There are also cities in the US where sailing can be nearly free (Boston is one of them.)

My daughter is going into High School and I have been amazed at how competitive the activities have become since I was a kid. Her school actually holds tryouts for marching band because the band goes to marching band competitions. As a result parents make their kids take extra private lessons through middle school so they can make the cut. They suggest kids use 1/4th of their class spaces on band so they can eventually get in. The band has a week long camp in another state to work out their routine. The band has it's own custom semi trailer to haul equipment that was bought by the band booster club. This is band, the class that exists specifically so kids can be well rounded.

Sports are even more nuts.

I volunteered to coach her softball team when she was little . The in house league (AKA fun league) had a rotating pitching coach that would work with every team. The whole goal of the league was to get the good players into the travel program as young as possible so they could identify the one girl who is going to be the varsity pitcher. Note, this started in Kindergarten. One girl on the team had an uncle who played major league baseball - they let her sign up a year early.

The other one that blew my mind was math league. The team is made up of kids who twice a week get bused to the university and do 6 hours of college level math. This is 8th graders. To get into this the kids had to be nominated by a teacher and then pass a 3 hour test while in sixth grade. They practice math so much that most of the kids drop other activities.

Fortunately the robotics team is still new and takes all kids interested. Since that is where my daughter's interests are, that's what she is planning to sign up for. Of course, the HS robotics team formed a middle school robotics team a couple years ago. Now they can sniff around the middle school robotics team and target the kids they really want to sign up. When the middle school coordinator's daughter got into high school he got into a fight with the high school coordinator. So now there is an independent robotics team in town also trying to recruit kids.

Tennis is a great sport and I play whenever I can--which is hardly ever. The problem is that you need to find someone with roughly equal skill for it to be fun. You also need access to a court--which is easy in nice weather, lots of free public ones. In the Winter, you would have to join a racquet club. Expensive.

Cross country running is a sport that in High School, will put your kid into contact with generally college-bound high performing students. This was the case when I was in HS (30 years ago) and is the case now that I have two daughters in HS. Plus, you can go for a run anytime, alone and in a short time.

I think weight lifting is great too, but only for full-grown adults. It too is quick and has big benefits.

Basketball is the one I advised my son to play.(and he did) It has high social status, considered a more difficult and "serious" sport than sports like tennis, and the risk of injury isn't high like in football. In certain schools it is the province of thugs, but as long as you have a "good school" it shouldn't be a problem.

My daughter swims and skis. Skiing though is absurdly expensive - though a great deal of fun. She and I are both dipping our toes (and hands) into indoor rock climbing but it too looks to be a bit pricey.

+1 for swimming. It's a good "life long" one.

And for team sports, I think I'd go with basketball. Baseball has relatively little actual teamwork compared to other team sports.

The only problem with these two is that they overlap as high school sports.

I think that tennis is a good choice (though it somewhat pains me to say that as a squash player). Plus, once you learn one racket sport, the rest are easy to pick up.

No one has said squash, it's not always accessible to everyone, but it and other indoor racquet sports are very good for you and can be played well into life. There's a lot of strategy and I've always met interesting people who either play or want to learn. It's a great ice-breaker.

While squash and racquetball may have a snooty rap, you'd be surprised that in most cities you can usually find an inexpensive court membership if you look. I learned from my dad and we play at a Rustbelt YMCA all the time.

There's also several squash non-profits targeting at-risk youth that you can volunteer at, so there are non-sport related opportunities connected to it as well.

This is all true. It's also likely easier to become a solid intermediate level squash player and get noticed by college coaches than tennis. The fact that it's a more "niche" sport breeds more intensity as well; it's easier to meet people and break the ice since most squash players are excited to find another of their own kind.

The answer depends on, as always, on your mood affiliation. Hyper-ambitious wannabe WASPy social climber? Tennis or squash. Leftish Europhile? Soccer, naturally. Frustrated model/actress with a perfectionist streak? Ice skating. Actual normal American? Football.

Before considering a particular sport, why not select between team sports vs individual sports?

Or is optimizing this too dependent on the individual?

My wife and I have agreed that our hypothetical future children will play neither football nor hockey. Football because of the injuries and hockey because neither of us is getting up a 4AM to haul them to practice.

Badminton is an excellent sport for a child to learn and can be played at greatly varying levels of skill.

- Good for any age. It transitions excellently into adulthood since it only requires 2 people to play and the matches are relatively short.

- Low chance of injury. Non-contact, similar to tennis but less risk to the arms and wrist.

- Low cost. Badminton racquets are cheap. Playing fields are compact. Ideal for indoor play.

- Low competition. It's not a particularly popular sport in the US, so the low exposure level means more opportunity to shine.

- Physically demanding. Trains reflexes, hand to eye coordination, endurance, and burst speed. High level play requires greater levels of athleticism than tennis. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4D-PYBQQSZk

- SWPL approved. Unlike football, basketball, or baseball, your child's peer players are go to be heavily White and Asian, thus lowering their potential exposure to undesirable proletarian elements.

All while increasing their exposure to sissies, snobs and mama's boys.

Kubb - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kubb

No risk of injury, play as individual or a team on any 8m*5m surface, high strategy while being very approachable and accessible.

I think Tyler picked a good sport- especially on the dimension of being able to play past middle age, and pretty much every single place I have been has free public courts that are not used very much. However, if I had a son or daughter, I would encourage basketball- relatively safe (though more hazardous for female knees than boys) simply because it is a team game.

This website that plots out average heights and weights of sports that are played in college, it might help with the selection process (picking a sport that "fits"):

Boys sports:
http://spreadsheetsolving.com/2015/01/11/pick-sons-sport/

Girls sports:
http://spreadsheetsolving.com/2014/09/21/pick-daughters-sport/

Please confirm the lead singer of Phish asked this question.

One difficult element of tennis, perhaps not mentioned, is finding players of near equal playing ability. Although, I suppose this could apply to all sports, for tennis I think it matters quite a bit because it is no fun playing against someone considerably worse or considerably better whereas with team sports or say, golf, skill and talent level does not totally ruin the playing experience.

Lots of good thoughts on what sport your kid should play.
One key consideration that has not yet been examined is:
Who will the kid be hanging out with when he or she plays the sport? ie What is the social group the child will be spending a lot of time with?
This consideration (social group) will have as much impact on the child's long term benefit from the sport as the actual playing of the sport.
For my wife and I this consideration is important for the decision of what sport to play (as well as the other choices in life: friends, schools, church, where to live)
Overall it is safe to say that youth sports are totally out of control, largely due to parents being competition and control freaks, and egomaniacs, attempting to live out their failed sports careers through the lives of their children. It's a long way from when I was a kid (I'm 50) and the neighborhood kids would play pick up games of whatever sport was in season....baseball in the spring and summer, tackle football (no pads) in the fall, ice hockey on the pond, basketball in the winter.
This group of kids produced a half dozen college level athletes in a range of sports: baseball, basketball, and soccer.
I played soccer (dad was a coach) and was a high school superstar and D1 college player. My eye doctor always asked me if I thought heading the ball was potentially bad for the brain, similar to boxing. This was 35 years ago. Guess he was a pretty smart guy.
As a young man, I always loved tennis and ice hockey but didn't have the opportunity to play either in any systematic manner.
Once I retired from soccer, I took up tennis and love it, the better you get, the more interesting the game becomes.
My kids play tennis and take lessons and belong to a club, it does cost a bit of money, but it keeps the kids busy (away from video games), provides a challenge that they can get better at consistently, provides a competitive measuring stick at frequent intervals (tournaments), and is a sport that can be played around the world and for one's entire life. I wish tennis could regain the status (as it once had in the 1970's and 1980's) as one of the leading sports in the country. Few remember that McEnroe, Borg and Connors were the biggest sports stars in the world in their hey day, as big as Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Muhammad Ali.
Back to my original thought: the social environment of tennis is quite good, a bit snobby, some spoiled kids, many striving first generation immigrants, lots of Asians and Indians, these are the people I wish my kids to associate with both now and in the future.

The world really is a different place. When I was growing up everyone I knew played the sports they were interested in playing. I ended up focusing on basketball because it was the one I liked the most. Other kids chose other sports.

I guess we were a lot more spoiled back then, playing what we wanted to play, not what our parents decided we should or shouldn't play.

I would put Academic Team at the top. Very low risk of injury.

>without needing a team to back you up.

Dear God in heaven. Did you really cite this as a plus when picking a sport? You are beyond hope.

If you have access to it, the correct answer is ice hockey. It provides limitless challenges to any child, regardless of skill level. The pride of accomplishment is immense. And it instills a very high level of discipline and persistence -- without the kid even noticing, because it is so much fun. You won't see many sports where the kids are begging to go to practice -- where they can have a good time.

If my hypothetical future kids want to play ice hockey, they're going to have to find a way to get to practice on their own because there's no way in hell that I'm getting up at 4AM to take them.

My wife is a high school teacher and she always says that we would put our kids into rowing crew because all of the students she's had that did that ended up at Ivy League schools on scholarships. Apparently there is a lack of people playing that sport.

As rower or coxswain?

I believe they were all rowers, but there may have been some coxswains in there too.

Cycling is a great lifetime sport, and one that parents can do with their kids. It's not as social as some team sports, though.

I played Ultimate Frisbee in college. Lots of fun, not too serious, relatively low levels of injury. Not very many psycho parents or wannabe pros. This might change if the sport gets bigger.

I was on the triathlon team in grad school, and that was a great experience. Very social people, lots of cameraderie, low injury risk, and you can keep up with all three sports as you get older. Some of my teammates are now professionals, but you don't have to be a pro prospect to have a good time.

My bet is placekicker in football.

It requires specialization that is not often practiced, universities at all levels (aside from Ivy, of course) offer scholarships and provided you make it to the professional leagues kickers tend to have the longest careers. Its likely also intrinsically rewarding as you are the player who scores most often and have the opportunity to win (lose) the game most often. Kickers are also less prone to injury (except for Martin Gramatica). The position also tends to focus on technique rather than strategy, so even a dummy can do it.

* *Also increasingly possible for girls to play football as placekickers nowadays, not just guys

Which sport should your kid play? The answer is obvious to anyone not looking to turn a child's activity into a metaphor, a 'lifelong growing experience', a psychological test or statement, a political statement, or in any other way trying to use the opportunity to impose your own choices on your child.

Here's the easy answer:

1. Choose the sport your child enjoys playing the most. Or rather, let your kid choose his or her own damned sport.
2. There is no 2.
3. If you must have a 3 (say, if there are multiple candidates for #1), then help your kid pick the sport he or she is best at.

Trying to force your kid into a sport he or she doesn't enjoy is idiocy. Trying to protect your kid is nice, but any sport can injure you. And not all injuries are a bad thing - minor injuries as a child teach your kid about danger and help reduce crazy recklessness in teen and adult years.

But really, sports for children is a way to blow off steam and have a good time. Individual sports are good for building discipline and taking responsibility, while team sports are good for, well, learning to function as part of a team. But those are secondary considerations. What matters most is that your kid is getting some exercise, having fun, and burning energy. If you want the kid to do that a lot, make sure it's fun.

Probably because it's not common, but apparently no one mentioned fencing.

Fencing is a great sport for kids: improves reflexes, overall body shape, control of emotion. You always train in groups, which lower the selfishness effect of tennis and the equipment is less expensive than one might think. Injuries are minimal: knees, mostly, and head injuries are unheard of (teh occasional freak incident happen, but that's true of any sport). And it's "cool" to sell to a kid ("hey, you want to fight with swords?").

Only thing, one has to be sure the trainers know hat they are doing: as any asymmetrical sport (like tennis), if your physical preparation isn't done properly, it may cause problems. But then again, a bad physical trainer will ruin you any serious sport you do.

this will anger a few people, but i would definately NOT say baseball.

why?

baseball players are (in my experience) the dumbest of the athletes. because critical thinking and decision making have literally been drilled out of them. there is always a correct answer (based on count, men on base, situational context of hitter, etc). you are TOLD what base to throw the ball to based on the situation. For me, that means is requires little to zero improvisational decision making (unlike soccer, which i am extremely Biased towards). plus baseball practices (in my experience) were always reallly long and a lot standing around. waste of time, fewer rewards.

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