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Play Ball! Youth Sports Team Basics

If you are a parent who played youth sports as a child, you probably “know the ropes.” But getting your child involved can be intimidating if you don’t know at what age to start, how to sign up or when the seasons begin.

For traditional youth sports — football, soccer, basketball, baseball and softball — organizations such as YMCAs, parks and recreation departments and Boys and Girls Clubs, offer multiple sports, though usually not tackle football, just flag football.

Once kids become interested in an individual sport, they often join a second type of organization, a sports-specific league such as Police Athletic League basketball, Little League baseball or Pop Warner football. Often families choose a sports organization based on scheduling, distance of practices and games, and of course, where friends are playing.

Special Olympics

For children with an intellectual disability, Special Olympics
programs are a great way to get
involved in youth sports.  Find a local program: DE | NJ | PA

Kids often learn where less common sports such as lacrosse, wrestling or swimming are offered from someone already playing. If your son comes home from school and announces he wants to wrestle, it’s probably because his friend already does. Or search the Internet with your town’s or county’s name and the sport, such as “youth wrestling.” Here is additional information to get your child started in youth sports.

Information for All Youth Sports

Age: Varies by organization, but most start at age 3-5 and can continue through high school. Experience is rarely required. For example, if your child missed out on tee-ball, he can still play baseball. If he wants to play the sport at a varsity level, it’s critical to play during the middle school years.
Cost: Registration fees are typically $50-$150.
Uniforms/Equipment: Uniform is usually provided. Equipment needs vary by organization.
Volunteering: In addition to coaching and team parent opportunities, some organizations require parents to volunteer at the concession stand.
Fundraising: Usually participation in at least one fundraising activity is required.
Sign-up Date: Sign-ups typically occur two months prior to the season, but be sure to check once you find your league.
Time commitment: Kids typically must attend one or two practices during the week and one game on the weekend.

Multi-Sport Organizations

Usually you have to be a member at some level to participate, but not always, so check. Kids can typically  play in these organizations throughout their school years through their local YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs, Police Athletic League or department of parks and recreation.

Baseball/Softball

Many leagues are coed at the younger ages.
Age: Kids start at 4 or 5
Season: Spring, though some leagues offer fall ball.
► Little League team finder

Football

Weight restrictions apply. Some leagues offer flag football for youngest ages.
Age: Most leagues begin at age 5, with flag football, and then advance to tackle at age 7.
Season: Fall
► Pop Warner league finder

Soccer

Level of game (3- to 11-player teams) varies by organization.
Age: Kids start as young as age 3.
Seasons: Fall and spring. Some organizations offer indoor  soccer during winter.
► Delaware Youth Soccer Association
► New Jersey Youth Soccer
► Pennsylvania Soccer Leagues

Basketball

Kids start with shorter hoops, often offered through local recreation departments.
Age: Some groups begin teaching basic skills as young as age 3.
Season: Late fall, winter. Some leagues offer one session before the holidays and another after.
► Police Athletic League chapter

Jon Buzby is a father of three and local freelance writer specializing in parenting and youth sports.

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