6 Tips to Finding the Right Athletic Program for Kids


Playing a team or individual sport is a natural fit for many children. Kids benefit from learning how to participate on a team, realizing the discipline and patience it takes to achieve excellence, and practicing gross motor skills. Many even find a sport they love and stick with over time that shapes their childhood.

Families often sign their children up for sports with a certain degree of hesitation though, despite the many advantages athletics offers to young people. One way to ease a parent’s mind when choosing which sports to sign one’s child up for is knowing what to look for in a program.

Here are six qualities families can observe in an athletic program to determine whether the philosophy embodied by the coaches and program will meet a families’ needs:

1) The program seeks to instill a sense of team or school spirit

A program that teaches kids to represent their school or team well, on and off the playing field, instills in kids the idea that wearing a jersey means representing an idea or organization bigger than themselves. In well-organized programs, children learn that when competing for their school or team, they wear a jersey with their letters and colors, therefore representing the values of the team. This call to a higher standard teaches kids to respect and appreciate the unique qualities of their school or athletic community. Does the program teach kids to have pride in the school or team they represent and encourage players to express values like discipline, humility, hard work at all times?

2) The athletic program promotes a sense of camaraderie among teammates

Players need to understand that athletics involves encouraging one another on the court and in the classroom. Coaches teach athletes to help one another improve skills. Players value the time they spend together at practice, traveling to matches, and cheering for one another. Making new friends, supporting teammates as they meet personal goals, and seeing one another succeed is a big part of what makes athletics important in a child’s overall development. Does the program create space for your child to experience team camaraderie?

3) Coaches strive for players to develop a positive, can-do attitude towards challenges

Each sport presents its own challenges to athletes. Cross country runners train to run faster than last week, bowlers approach the lane seeking to perfect their aim, dancers concentrate to land complicated jump sequences, and football players enter each play ready to read signaling from the quarterback. These tasks require practice, patience, and discipline. Coaches teach players to approach each new difficulty equipped with the proper technique and the perseverance to try again when they don’t achieve the new skill the first time or even the 100th time. Are you watching your player develop grit through sports, a character quality that will serve them over a lifetime of trial and error as they learn and develop skills needed for higher education and the workforce?

4) Athletes practice true sportsmanship

Athletes understand that athletics aren’t all about winning; they’re about playing your best despite setbacks, trying again in the face of failure, and encouraging and applauding others’ excellence on the playing field. Character-driven athletes know how to win with a humble attitude, how to play with confidence and not cockiness, and how to lose graciously to an outstanding opponent. Look for the attitudes fostered in your child and his or her teammates…do you notice the traits of sportsmanship?

5) The athletic program promotes girls’ self-esteem

Do coaches spend time with the girls on foot drills and passing instruction, but also want the girls to gain self-confidence and a personal sense of security through building meaningful peer relationships with their teammates? Do the girls on your child’s team visibly strive to build one another up on the field, shouting words of encouragement to those who are newer at the sport, and hugging and high-fiving after a well-earned goal? Through the opportunity to play together, coaches of all-girls sports hope that girls learn to support one another and gain self-esteem from pushing themselves on the field both physically and mentally.

6) The athletic program emphasizes that kids realize the value of movement throughout their lifetimes

While becoming competitive in a certain sport can take years of dedication on the part of an athlete, the athletic program your child participates in should hope that kids realize the benefits of physical activity. Respectable programs hope that kids can feel the tangible benefits of movement, and that they’ll be committed to getting daily activity throughout their lifetimes so they can feel their best, even if they no longer compete seriously.

At Episcopal School of Knoxville, athletics provide an important outlet for many students. Our programs rely on the cornerstones of player development listed above to make our program both successful and unique in the Knoxville community. In fact, 90% of our students will participate in at least one sport before they graduate from ESK. By emphasizing the character development inherent in sports, our school approaches athletics holistically, with the whole child in mind. As lower school cross country coach Tiffany Alden says, “We invite everyone to participate and encourage taking risks and stepping out of comfort zones. Effort, hard work, and sportsmanship are revered over winning in our programs.” 

If you would like more information about our Athletic Programs, please contact Margaret Googe ([email protected]) or Marsha Brophy ([email protected]), co-athletic directors. If you would like more information about our school, please contact our Admissions Director, Mary Lovely ([email protected]). We’d love to tell you more about what makes ESK unique, both in athletics and in academics.


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