What Olympic Sport Is a Good Extracurricular Activity For My Child?

  • 01 of 18

    Is Aquatics the Right Sport for My Child?

    Child swimming laps in a pool
    Joey Celis/Moment/Getty Images

    In the Summer Olympics, aquatics refers to four different events: swimming, diving, synchronized swimming and water polo.

    1. Swimming has over 25 individual events for both men and women and six team events. Some events are considered sprints and some are long-distance events. All of them take place in a pool in which one length measures 50 meters. You will see swimmers doing freestyle (also known as the “crawl stroke”), the butterfly, backstroke, breastroke and individual medleys (IM). The IM is...MORE when swimmers use all of the strokes in one race, each for a predetermined distance and in a certain order. Winners are determined by who has the fastest time.
    2. Diving is also a sport for both men and women. Divers do a variety of different types of dives and compete in springboard (3 meter) and platform (10 meter) diving. Some even do synchronized diving, which means two divers at the same time. Each dive is scored by judges and the diver with the best averaged score wins.
    3. Synchronized swimming is a sport for women in which the swimmers essentially perform choreographed dances in the water. When all the swimmers work together well, these performances are fantastic!
    4. Water polo teams have six players and a goalie, none of whom are allowed to put their feet on the bottom of the pool during the game. This means they must tread water or swim for the entire game, which requires great stamina. Olympic water polo is like playing handball in the water. The game has four quarters of seven minutes apiece and the team with the most goals at the end wins.

    Is Aquatics the Right Sport for My Child?

    Swimming: If your has no fear of water, is well-coordinated, has no health issues that make aerobic exercise difficult and is willing to make a fairly substantial time commitment to a sport, swimming is a good choice. Swimming is a good choice for kids who :

    • are able and willing to take direction well.
    • are not afraid of pushing themselves to determine their limits.
    • want to be part of a team, but also need to be able to measure independent skill growth.
    • are able to learn about teamwork and good sportsmanship

    Diving: If your child can swim well, has strong gross motors skills, good depth-perception, no fear of heights and is willing to take on a challenge and stick with it, diving may be a good sport for him to try. Diving is a also a good choice for children who are:

    • easily overwhelmed by the pressure of team sports that rely on all of the participants to do well.
    • looking for a sport that doesn’t require daily practice.
    • able to take constructive criticism well.
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  • 02 of 18

    Is Archery the Right Sport for My Child?

    Photo: Robert Laberge/Getty Images

    Archery is a sport for both men and women. Olympic archery includes both individual and team events. Arrows are shot, using a recurve bow, at a target 70 meters away. Archers shoot three arrows per end and only have 40 seconds time maximum between shooting each arrow.

    Is Archery the Right Sport for My Child?

    Archery is a sport that kids can start learning between the ages of 8 and 10 years old. Before that, they may not have the strength, impulse control and safety awareness needed to participate....MORE Archery is a good sport for children who:

    • have good core physical strength
    • are able to be self-directed learners
    • can delay gratification (i.e. not need to be perfect right away)
    • are able to understand and follow multi-step directions
    • want to increase concentration and self-calming skills
    • do not wish to participate in traditional team sports
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  • 03 of 18

    Is Badminton the Right Sport for My Child?

    Photo: Getty Images

    The game of badminton, as it is played in the Summer Olympics, is very different than a casual backyard game at a summer barbecue. Though the game is still played with a net, racquets and a shuttlecock, the court is a standard size and the shuttlecock isn’t the flimsy plastic one you’re used to seeing. In the Olympics, badminton teams can have one player or two.

    Is Competitive Badminton the Right Sport for My Child?

    It may be hard to find a competitive badminton team or coach where you live, as...MORE the popularity of the sport varies from country to country. Despite that, if your child wants to learn badminton as his sport of choice, there are a few traits and skills that might make it easier. Badminton (and other racquet sports) are good for children who:

    • have strong hand-eye coordination (or want to improve it).
    • are patient and willing to practice the same skills over and over again.
    • have strong stability skills.
    • are able to collaborate and plan with a partner or team.
    • do well seeing the whole picture in order to strategize.
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  • 04 of 18

    Is Baseball the Right Sport for My Child?

    Photo: Getty Images

    Though a relatively new addition to the Summer Olympics, baseball has been the American national pastime since the 1800s. All over America, children as young as 4 begin playing the sport in the form of tee-ball. Some move on to Farm League and Little League, but baseball isn’t every child’s favorite sport.

    Is Baseball the Right Sport for My Child?

    The answer to whether baseball is the right sport for your child may change over the years. When he first begins tee-ball, he will learn the basic...MORE skills and rules of the game, but as he moves up in the ranks the game requires a bigger time commitment and a more complicated set of physical and social skills. Baseball is a good sport to pursue if your child:

    • is willing and able to see a commitment through to the end. His team will be counting on him, so if he starts the season, he’ll have to finish it.
    • is able to show/learn good sportsmanship skills and can understand that working together as a team is crucial in baseball.
    • does not have asthma or bad seasonal allergies.
    • has or is developing strong hand-eye coordination.
    • is able to concentrate and focus for a full game.
    • likes to run.
    • is able to take and assimilate constructive criticism without undue sensitivity.
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  • 05 of 18

    Is Basketball the Right Sport for My Child?

    Lamont Jones,Kyrie Irving and Kyle Singler at the 2011 NCAA tournament at Honda Center on March 24, 2011 in Anaheim, California. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Basketball is a sport that has a colorful history in the Summer Olympics. From the first games being held on a court made of materials that turned to mud when it rained to an American team that wouldn’t go to the 1936 Olympics in protest of Hitler, Olympic basketball gives people a lot to talk about.

    It’s a game for both men and women, played on a regulation court and the teams are subject to the original thirteen rules of the game. Each team can have five players on the court at a time and the...MORE game is divided into four ten-minute periods.

    Is Basketball the Right Sport for My Child?

    The rules of basketball may not have changed since the sport was invented in 1891, but the competition and skill of the players certainly have. Though some children begin playing the game as preschoolers, most kids don’t start playing basketball until they are 7 or 8 years old.

    As with baseball, basketball is a sport in which the demands become greater as a child gets older. Basketball might be the right sport for your child if your child:

    • has the patience and concentration to drill (practice the same skills over and over again).
    • has good enough fine motor control in his hands that he can learn to dribble a ball.
    • has good hand-eye coordination.
    • is tall.
    • is able to work as part of a team.
    • can take in information quickly. The game moves fast and your child will need to know what the other players on his team are doing and where they are.
    • is able to take constructive criticism.
    • is not sensitive to loud sounds and crowds.
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  • 06 of 18

    Is Boxing the Right Sport for My Child? (The AAP Says "No!")

    Photo: Getty Images North America

    Olympic boxing is very different than professional boxing. The rules are different, as is how it’s structured. Each “bout” is comprised of four rounds of two minutes apiece and the winner is determined either by knockouts or points.

    Is Boxing the Right Sport for My Child?

    This is a tricky question to answer, particularly since the American Academy of Pediatrics is in opposition of “the sport of boxing for children, adolescents, and young adults,” on the grounds that boxing is a collision sport...MORE which continually exposes children to possibility of neurological damage (concussion) and damage to the eye sockets.

    Despite this strong statement, the AAP recognizes that kids do participate in the sport and many people feel it gives children a healthy, disciplined outlet to which they can channel negative emotions. Should you decide to take the risk and enroll your child in boxing, please make sure he is outfitted with proper safety gear at all times.

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  • 07 of 18

    Is Canoe/Kayak the Right Sport for My Child?

    Mahe Drysdale in the semifinals of the 2008 FISA World Cup Single Sculls in Lucerne, Switzerland. Photo: Michael Steele / Getty Images

    In the Summer Olympics, canoe/kayak is actually comprised of 16 different events for both men and women. There is flatwater racing, which is when the athletes race in calm water, and there is slalom racing in which racers make it through a series of gates on a rough water course.

    Is Canoe or Kayak the Right Sport for My Child?

    Both canoeing and kayaking are excellent activities for children to begin learning at a young age. Of course, whether your child should take it on as a sport is somewhat...MORE determined by where you live geographically--some areas just don’t have lakes nearby to practice on.

    Paddling can be a very good sport for children with sensory integration issues, as it is calming and typically requires calm focus. If your child would like to take up canoe or kayak, he should:

    • be able to swim with confidence.
    • have or be able to develop strong upper body strength.
    • have a good sense of direction and spatial-body awareness.
    • be able to work in tandem with a partner.
    • have relatively good impulse control and the ability to listen to authority.
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  • 08 of 18

    Is Cycling the Right Sport for My Child?

    Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images

    Though you may think of long-distance bicycle races when you think of Olympic cycling, the event is actually made up of four different types of events, only one of which is road cycling.

    1. BMX: Also known as Bicycle Motorcross, Olympic BMX biking is new to the games. It was introduced in 2008 and is an event that combines all the elements of road, track and mountain biking into one race.
    2. Road: The most familiar of the Olympic cycling events, road cycling is a test of pacing and endurance. The...MORE event requires riding a very difficult cross-country course for many, many miles.
    3. Track: Track cycling is a breed of cycling unto itself. At first glance, track cycling looks a lot like traditional car racing. Cyclists work in teams or individually to cycle around the track. Each event is a different distance and the ultimate goal is to be the fastest.
    4. Mountain Bike: This type of cycling tests endurance as well as skill. Olympic mountain bikers take on long distance bike trails that include varied types of terrain.

    Is Cycling the Right Sport for My Child?

    It depends on what kind of bicycling your child intends to take up. All types of cycling require a child to have good balance and strong stability skills, but each type of biking has its own special skill set.

    None of the types of bicycling are very good choices for children who have breathing difficulties or are hesitant to be on a bicycle. Bicycling is a good sport for children who:

    • love being outdoors.
    • can be flexible.
    • ride fast.
    • have good balance and are not overwhelmed by being crowded by other riders.
    • have a sense of adventure.
    • have mental and physical stamina.
    • are somewhat fearless.
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  • 09 of 18

    Are Equine Sports Right for My Child?

    Cassie Elia of Wild Ivy Farm on Dundee. Photo: Schwarcz Photography

    In the Summer Olympics, the sport of equestrian may be more familiar to your child as “equine sports” or “horseback riding,” though it is so much more than merely riding a horse. There are three events in equestrian: Dressage, Eventing and Show Jumping.

    Dressage is when a horse is trained to carry a rider with finesse. The competition shows how well a rider and horse can work together and what level of training has been achieved. Eventing is a show of skill and endurance and includes cross-country...MORE jumping, stadium jumping as well as dressage. Show jumping involves a complicated course of jumps, including vertical and spread jumps.

    Are Equine Sports Right for My Child?

    Horse riding lessons is a very popular extracurricular activity among younger children, especially girls. There is also a body of evidence that shows therapeutic riding can be very beneficial for children with certain types of disabilities, including Autism Spectrum Disorders, sensory intergation disorder and Down Syndrome.

    Not all children move beyond their initial curiosity to competing in equine sports. Those who do are a special breed! A child (without special needs) who is interested in exploring equine sports should or may be a child who:

    • is not afraid of horses or large animals.
    • is confident in her abilities or has the capacity to develop that confidence over time.
    • is responsible. A rider’s job doesn’t end with riding. She’ll need to take care of her horse, equipment and stall as well.
    • has good core balance
    • takes direction well.
    • is prepared to possibly fall and “get back on the horse.”
    • has strong leg muscles.
    • enjoys the outdoors.
    • doesn’t rely on external praise to know when she does something well.
    • doesn’t necessarily want to be part of team.
    • is shy.
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  • 10 of 18

    Is Football or Soccer the Right Sport for My Child?

    Alex Morgan #13 of the USA out runs Canada Kaylyn Kyle #6 and Carmelina Moscato #4 of Canada during the Olympic send-off soccer match June 30, 2012 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

    For Americans, it can be confusing to hear that football is a sport in the Summer Olympics. That is, until you remember that to the rest of the world, football refers to the sport that Americans know as soccer.

    The game is played like any other soccer game. There are two teams, each with a goalie and ten other players on the field. The team who scores the most goals wins.

    Is Soccer the Right Sport for My Child?

    Football, or soccer, is a very popular sport for kids. So many kids play soccer, in...MORE fact, that the phrase "soccer mom" has been used as a semi-derisive term to describe mothers who are actively involved in their child’s sporting activities.

    Kids often begin the game at as young as five or six years old. At that age the focus is on learning the basic skills of the game, but as kids get older the game becomes more competitive and a little more complex. If your child wants to play soccer, some of the skills that would serve her well include:

    • agility and flexibility.
    • the ability to work as part of a team.
    • the ability to concentrate and pay attention throughout the entire game.
    • an ability to run well.
    • being able to carry on multiple physical tasks at once.
    • being able to listen to authority.
    • liking the outdoors.
    • not having any sensitivities to noise and crowds.
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  • 11 of 18

    Is Track and Field the Right Sport for My Child?

    Joanna Hayes, 2004 Olympics in Beijing. Photo: Adam Petty/Getty Images

    Track and field is not merely one sport, it’s almost an entire games unto itself. Olympic track and field has traditionally included running, jumping, pole vaulting, discus throwing, javelin and many more events.

    Is Track and Field the Right Sport for my Child?

    It’s hard to narrow down traits and/or types of children who will do well in track and field because it is so varied. However, this is what makes the sport a good choice for many different children, especially those who have yet to find...MORE something at which they excel and enjoy.

    Kids have an opportunity to explore a number of different types of activities, some of which require more physical stamina than others. It’s particularly a good choice for children who want to be part of a team. For more detailed information, check out this profile of the sport, by About.com’s Guide to Family Fitness:

    Youth Sports Profile: Youth Track and Field
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  • 12 of 18

    Is Gymnastics the Right Sport for My Child?

    Gabrielle Douglas. Photo: Ezra Shaw/ Getty Images North America

    There’s a lot more to gymnastics than tumbling and hanging from rings, though if your child likes to do those things, it’s a good start. The Olympic Gymnastics is comprised of three different types of events, for both men and women.

    1. Artistic: This is what most people tune it to watch when they watch Olympic Gymnastics. Artistic gymnastsics is a female-only event in which the women compete on equpiment like the vault, uneven bars and balance beam. It also involves floor exercises.
    2. Rhythmic: Rhyth...MOREmic gymnastics isn’t what most people tend to think of when they think of the sport. In these events, the athletes compete not on the equipment, but with it. Using hoops, ropes, balls, clubs and/or ribbons, the gymnasts are judged on their coordination and dance ability.
    3. Trampoline: This event includes daring, high-flying dives and flips, using only the trampoline as a equipment. Olympic trampoline is a visual wonder to behold.

    Is Gymnastics the Right Sport for My Child?

    Despite the common stereotype, gymnastics is a sport that both girls and boys can do and benefit from. Many children, especially those who rise to competitive levels, start at a very young age, but there is some concern that this can lead to growth issues and repetitive stress injuries.

    A child may be well-suited for gymnastics if s/he:

    • is self-confident and has a healthy body image.
    • is graceful and flexible.
    • has good core strength and balance.
    • is willing to take risks.
    • is self-directed learner.
    • shows mental and physical stamina.
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  • 13 of 18

    Is Judo or Taekwondo the Right Sport for My Child?

    Photo: Marco Pakoeningrat via Flickr/CCL

    Judo and Taekwondo are martial art sports for both men and women in the Olympics. Though the word "judo" translates to "gentle way," it is still considered a combat sport, one with a rich history. Judo focuses on using an opponent’s force and energy against them. Taekwondo (or Tae Kwon Do) is also a combat sport, but is more athletic, using both striking and kicking as ways to acquire points.

    Are Martial Arts the Right Sport for My Child?

    Though many parents are hesitant to begin...MORE their child in martial arts because of the level of violence or because of their child’s lack of impulse control, judo, taekwondo and karate are actually wonderful sports for children.

    Contrary to what many parents think, martial arts actually is a sport often recommended for children with impulse control problems or overly-aggressive children. The underlying principles of martial arts are to teach self-control and respect, and they do so in a way that builds self-control and fitness.

    Your child may benefit from martial arts training if s/he:

    • needs to learn concentration and impulse control.
    • would like to build balance and flexibility.
    • has or is building a healthy self-esteem.
    • is attempting to build an internal locus of control and rely less on external praise.
    • is well coordinated.
    • can take a "hit and not quit."
    Continue to 14 of 18 below.
  • 14 of 18

    Is Sailing the Right Sport for My Child?

    Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images

    In the Summer Olympics, there are two different kinds of sailing events: fleet and match racing. In fleet racing, all sailors and boats race at the same time, while in match racing two boats are competing against one another.

    The Olympics is using one design racing, which makes the competition truly about skill and knowledge because no one boat has an advantage over another.

    Is Sailing the Right Sport for My Child?

    Like canoe and kayak, whether or not sailing is a sport for your child is somewhat...MORE dependent on your geographical location. It’s also a sport that can be quite expensive if your child’s school or local recreation club doesn’t offer team instruction.

    Despite these possible limitations, many children really take to sailing. If your child would like to set sail, it would benefit him to:

    • swim exceptionally well and have no fear of water.
    • have a good sense of direction and no trouble knowing left from right.
    • be able to make decisions easily and quickly.
    • enjoy working as part of a team.
    • have the strength to hold position against the wind.
    • have the ability to see the whole picture. It’s a safety issue--your child needs to be able to see and predict what’s coming, not just know what he’s doing at the moment.
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  • 15 of 18

    Is Tennis the Right Sport for My Child?

    Li Ting and Tian Tian Sun (China) earned the gold medal in women's doubles at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Photo: Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

    Unlike the racquet sport of badminton, tennis is a familiar and popular sport all around the world. It’s not unusual to find tennis courts at local playgrounds or at schools, let alone to find your child playing Wii tennis in your living room!

    Obviously, becoming an Olympic level tennis player takes more work than becoming a Wii tennis champion (though it may have less injury potential). Olympic tennis is played by both men and women, in pairs or singly. Per the typical rules of tennis, four...MORE points wins a game and six games wins a set.

    Is Tennis the Right Sport for My Child?

    If your child is interested in taking up tennis as an extracurricular activity, s/he can begin taking lessons as young as the age of three, though many children will wait until early elementary school to pick up a racquet. Tennis is a good sport for kids who:

    • have lots of energy.
    • do not have a low threshold for frustration tolerance.
    • have good hand-eye coordination and depth perception.
    • can work with a partner to strategize (and won’t hog the ball!).
    • are flexible and agile.
    • are willing to put in the time needed to become a good player.
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  • 16 of 18

    Is Volleyball the Right Sport for My Child?

    Talita Rocha of Brazil shoots as Stefanie Schwaiger of Austria blocks during the Women's Preliminary Pool F match at the Chaoyang Park Beach Volleyball Ground on Day 4 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images
    While the Olympics plays host to two types of volleyball--beach and indoor--most kids are less likely to pick up beach volleyball as an extracurricular activity.

    In fact, the rules for the games differ, even though the basic idea is the same. There are six players on each side of the net, each of whom has a position to play regardless of where she is physically positioned. The goal is to keep the ball "in play (or in the air) and going over the net.

    Is Volleyball the Right Sport for My Child?

    Ch...MOREildren who want to begin playing volleyball as a serious sport can join a league around the age of seven. It can be a frustrating sport to play, especially for younger children, as it’s hard to keep the ball in play. That doesn’t mean your child shouldn’t give it a try. Some traits to have that might lower the frustration a little are:

    • good visual-tracking skills.
    • fair to good hand-eye coordination.
    • the ability to play as part of a team and to encourage teammates.
    • overall physical stamina (your child will spend a lot of time on his feet).
    • strong trunk and upper-body strength.
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  • 17 of 18

    Is Wrestling the Right Sport for My Child?

    Coleman Scott and Shawn Bunch during the Grapple in the Apple on June 7, 2012 in Times Square in New York,NY. Photo: Elsa/Getty Images
    Wrestling is a sport as ancient as the Olympics games. Although traditionally, wrestling has been a sport for men, women began competing in the 2004 Olympic games.

    As each athlete competes in a weight class and against an opponent of their own gender, there is no reason that both girls and boys shouldn’t consider the sport when it comes to extracurricular activities.

    Is Wrestling the Right Sport for My Child?

    Not all schools have wrestling teams for both boys and girls and even at the collegiate...MORE level there are not many colleges which have female wrestling as a sport. However, if your child wants to try out wrestling, that shouldn’t discourage her.

    There are private lessons and community recreation clubs all over who will welcome children of both genders who are serious about taking on this combat sport.

    Youth wrestling is a sport that requires strength and persistence. It is a good sport for children who:

    • have good impulse control.
    • don't mind being touched by other people.
    • appreciate and like to create or analyze strategy.
    • don’t wish to participate in a sport that is dependent on a team working together as a unit to win a game.
    • think quickly.
    • move quickly and with flexibility.
    • are not medically fragile.
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  • 18 of 18

    What Other Sports Are In the Summer Olympics?

    The Olympic rings over Vancouver harbor on day 8 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    There are other Olympic sports, too, but not all of them are sports that your child can easily take up as an extracurricular activity. Here is some information about the other Summer Olympic sports:

    • Everything You Wanted to Know About Table Tennis/Ping-Pong at the Olympic Games
    • What Olympic Shooting is All About
    • What is Olympic Rowing?
    • All About the Olympic Triathlon
    • What is Olympic Modern Pentathlon?
    • Learn More About Olympic Handball