Select Region
Helping Parents Make Better Decisions

Is Running the Right Sport for Your Child?


For the physical benefits, for the fun...Whether you're a marathoner inspiring your kids to hit the pavement or a couch potato with a little hurdler in your midst, running can be a great way to tap into a child's competitive spirit.

Watching the New York City Marathon causes people to wonder where these men and women get their seemingly super-human endurance. But if a child has ever dreamed of speeding along a track or running until her legs can't carry her any farther, watching this event—one of the five World Marathon Majors—may be just the motivation she needs to encourage her to joining a track or cross country team where she can truly excel.

kids run track at the nyrr youth jamboree in nyc

I was a high school track and cross country runner who transitioned to the marathon distance in graduate school. During those years, I experienced many of the typical ups and downs that come from being a runner. Later on, as a coach with Girls on the Run International, a nonprofit organization that encourages girls to improve their health and self-esteem through physical fitness, I pushed elementary school girls to their fullest potential. During this time, I came to understand that anyone could shine on the track as long as he or she was willing to put in the effort.

Passing the Baton

Often a parent's interest in the sport alone is enough to pique a child's interest. And an invitation or slight nudge to go for a jog together can foster the child's interest even more. In certain cases, kids may simply have extra energy to burn and are encouraged to participate in track and field by teachers who realize that they can harness their excitement in a productive manner. Running is also a great option for kids who want to participate in a sport that involves a certain skill set like hand-eye coordination or flexibility that's not quite right for them.

Eric Stein, who has been a volunteer track and field and cross-country coach with New York Road Runners for more than 10 years, agrees. "Being in the sport since I was 13, I know there is a spot for everyone," says Stein, who decided to participate in cross-country when he was cut from his high school's junior varsity football team. "That is the beautiful thing about cross country and track and field. Another positive of our sport is that many coaches don't make cuts."



Coaches will often have new runners build a base, and once this is done they'll be able to determine who will excel at each event based on where they are most comfortable competing. Stein adds that a good coach will be sure to watch the athlete's stride. If a child normally has a shorter stride, he may excel at the sprint events that feature record-setting stars like Usain Bolt, who set several then-world records at the 2008 Olympics only to better his performances in later years. Those who are more flexible may compete well in jumping events. Others, who are not particularly fast but have endless stamina, may participate in distance events where they can excel as long as they are able to run at a consistent tempo.

And although physical stature may play some role, Stein insists there is no perfect body type for each distance. Of course this may be hard to believe, but there are some athletes participating in Marathon Sunday who don't look like they are capable of finishing the race but they will comfortably outpace those who look like the traditional, thin speedster.

"Cross country, which covers longer distances than typical track events, is a no-glory sport, so these are kids that move forward knowing they are in it for themselves and nothing else," he says. "The grit, determination, and spirit it takes to compete in an eight-kilometer, five-kilometer, steeplechase, 3200-meter run, or mile is immense."

"After over 12 years of coaching, I've learned that cross country and distance runners are among the most responsible, hardest working athletes," says Stein, who acknowledges that distance runners often get shortchanged when acknowledgements are given out just because their events are simply not as exciting as sprint events such as the 100-, 200-, or 400-meter dash. "They're almost always your most self-disciplined athletes."

Shin Splints and Other Possible Injuries

That determination can often be problematic for young athletes, too. Overtraining injuries like shin splints and stress fractures-which develop when shin splints don't heal-are common in distance runners. Sprinters may experience these injuries, but they usually are not as severe. Growth plate injuries and tendonitis also often hamper athletes' success.

Any swelling, pain at rest, disproportionate pain, and bruising should be treated with rest and ice. A sports medicine doctor or physical therapist can often help a child get back to competing if he has to take time off. Depending on the type of injury and diagnosis, the medical professional may encourage the child to continue competing if she complements a decreased-training schedule with stretching and strengthening exercises.

 


Want more content like this? Get Great Family Activities!


More After-School Articles:

Sports & Fitness Classes, Programs, & Facilities for Kids in Manhattan

Help your kids remain active by enrolling them in a sports program in and near Manhattan. Find classes that develop their skills here.


Latest News:

Sports & Fitness Classes for Kids on Long Island

Get your kids up and moving with sports and fitness classes in Nassau & Suffolk County. Check out our list of activities online.


Family Activities:

NYC City Lights Cruise

Event Cruises NYC, Pier 36 (NY) May. 30, 2021 - May. 02, 2021

Take the City Lights Cruise to see the awesome harbor lights and take in a spectacular New Y...



Have a Laugh:

Best Memes of the Week for Parents

Here are the funniest parenting memes from Instagram, Facebook, and Reddit this week.
Amber Greviskes

Author: Amber Greviskes is a frequent contributor to NYMetroParents. She lives in New York, and has also contributed to "Parenting" and "BabyTalk" magazines. See More

Featured Listings:

Chelsea Piers New York

Chelsea Piers New York

NYC, NY Need a place to play? Chelsea Piers is NYC’s most popular destination to learn, practice, play and compete in 25+ different sports. The 28-acre sports...

Palisades Climb Adventure

Palisades Climb Adventure

West Nyack, NY Get ready to experience the World’s tallest indoor ropes course standing 85 feet tall. Palisades Climb Adventure combines the thrill of challenge with...

Soccer Shots West

Soccer Shots West

Syosset, NY As the premier Children’s Soccer Experience, our mission is clear – at Soccer Shots Long Island West, we aim to positively impact children’s lives. ...

All Star Studios

All Star Studios

Forest Hills, NY Classes offered include Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Hip Hop, Theater, and Acrobatics for children starting at age 3 to Adults. Private classes and birthday par...