6 Tips For Picking a Good Youth Sports Program

boys in huddle

This post is sponsored by The Pediatric Center at Overland Park Regional Medical Center.

Youth sports are an excellent way for kids to develop many important skills that will help them for a lifetime. They are obviously a great way to get exercise, develop strength and speed, improve hand-eye coordination, and increase bone density and muscle mass. They are also a great way to increase lifelong skills that come with being part of a team such as cooperation, competition, resilience, and self-confidence. 

Parents often ask questions about youth sports programs. Organized sports for kids have been growing rapidly, and kids are playing more sports more frequently and sometimes in a more specialized manner than ever before. This has lead to an increase in sports related injuries. So, how are parents to know if a particular program is the right fit? 

Here are 6 tips for picking a youth sports program.

1. Pick a sport or sports your child enjoys.

Ask your child what they are interested in playing and keep an open mind. Getting other friends involved is another way to increase interest in sports. Regardless of how a first game or a first season goes, I encourage kids and families to give a particular sport or particular league a good try before making a switch.

2. Safety is important.

Every youth sports program should have comprehensive risk-management and child protection programs including an emergency action plan, background checks of all adults working with children, training coaches and parent volunteers in first aid, concussion risk management, CPR and the use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs). You also should expect codes of conduct setting behavioral expectations for coaches, players, and parents to minimize or eliminate emotionally, physically or sexually abusive conduct.

3. Sportsmanship.

Sports are all about having fun, and sportsmanship is a big part of making them so enjoyable. Programs should emphasize having fun, skill development and fair play. Winning, losing, and competition are also important, but need to be managed so everyone can still have fun. Some examples of this include how the clock gets managed, limiting the number of serves in volleyball, or not allowing a full court press in basketball if there is already a large lead.

4. Sets sensible limits on the number of practices and games per week.

Studies show that nearly half of the injury’s children suffer each year playing sports are overuse injuries. Rest days are very important to help a developing musculoskeletal system recover between practices and games. The program should set age-appropriate participation limits. One or two hours of practice and one or two games per week are probably more than enough for younger athletes. 

5. Specializing in a sport too soon is not a great idea.

Specializing in a sport at a young age leads to higher risk of injury, such as elbow ligament injury in young pitchers or ACL tears in young soccer and football players. Multi-sport athletes have an opportunity to develop different skills, decrease the rate of muscle imbalances, and decrease the rate of burnout on any one particular sport.

6. Time commitments and costs add up.

Youth leagues can differ dramatically in expense and time involved. Fees, ranging from uniforms and equipment to tournaments and travel, can be substantial, especially for more competitive leagues. Make sure there is a good balance between important family activities (e.g. dinnertime, vacations) and the time demands from sports.

The number one reason kids play sports is to have fun and the program you choose is an important factor in their overall sports experience. 


James Gutheil, MD, is s a board-certified, fellowship-trained pediatric orthopedic surgeon with The Pediatric Center at Overland Park Regional Medical Center.

When your child is sick or injured, trust the expertise of The Pediatric Center at Overland Park Regional Medical Center to get them back to being a kid again. The Pediatric Center provides an excellent experience for kids and their families who are looking for continuity of care and the highest level of expertise at the bedside.

The Pediatric Center offers:

  • Comprehensive pediatric services treating newborns to teens
  • Pediatric ER with short wait times
  • Quick and convenient access to pediatric specialists including cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, general surgery, neurology and orthopedic surgery
  • A pediatric inpatient unit for children, which includes a medical-surgical inpatient unit and pediatric ICU staffed by pediatric hospitalists and intensivists, as well as specialty physicians, all with pediatric-specific training
  • All pediatric board-certified attending physicians who are experts in their field and have years of experience treating children

To find a pediatric specialist, call (913) 541-KIDS (5437). To learn more about The Pediatric Center and meet our pediatric specialists, visit oprmc.com/pediatrics.

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