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Non-Competitive Sports & Activities for Your Pre-Teen

Every child deserves a positive sport and movement experience, one that meets their needs and brings them joy. Being active and engaged is an essential part of a pre-teen’s growth and development, positively impacting their mental and physical well-being. But what do you do if your pre-teen who doesn’t want or shies away from the pressures or commitment of a competitive sport? What if it’s just not the right fit for your child?

If this sounds familiar to you, we share a similar struggle. This past February, my 11-year-old daughter announced that she wanted to play volleyball. As a parent who has spent years trying to find ‘that’ activity for my child, I was ecstatic! Still, my excitement turned to worry, even though I’ve spent the better part of two decades teaching and coaching within the sport and recreation community. Why? Volleyball is outside my wheelhouse, and I was eager to find a program that met my daughter’s skill level and desire to participate at a recreational level.

Like mine, your pre-teen is at a unique time in their physical and emotional development. Research supports the positive impact physical activity can have on the developing adolescent. Physically, significant changes are happening with your child - the onset of puberty and unexpected growth spurts - all of which can affect your child’s sensory and motor development. Your once nimble child may now appear clumsy and awkward. The good news is that regular exercise can help improve your child’s coordination and positively affect their self-concept.

The pre-teen years are a time of increased independence, self-awareness, and desire for autonomy. Your child will also begin to connect what they do now with the long-term effects of those actions. Why is this important? The pre-teen years offer an incredible opportunity to sample and try new activities that support their ever-changing body and competencies while promoting a positive self-concept.

Recreational activities are the perfect platform for your developing pre-teen to experience new sports and activities in non-threatening, non-competitive environments; ones that are focused on fun, enjoyment, and the development of physical skills and competencies but also support your child’s developing autonomy.

And there’s more good news: Calgary boasts many fantastic, recreationally-focused sports and activities. Here are a few questions to consider when looking into recreational programming for your non-competitively-minded pre-teen:

  • What is the organization’s mission statement? Do their values align with recreational and inclusive programming?

  • What training and expertise do their coaches have? (Just because it’s recreational programming doesn’t mean standards should drop or are less important.)

  • What is the expected commitment level?

  • How many classes and hours per week?

  • Do they offer a free class trial or a 10-visit card?

  • What sort of equipment is needed, and do they supply it? If not, what are the additional costs?

Here are a few of the samplings the Calgary recreation scene has to offer your developing pre-teen. There are many options, from team sports to individual pursuits and everything in between.

Recreational sports programs - individual activities with limited equipment required:

Team sports:

Girls-only groups:

Starting a new sport or activity can require a financial commitment toward gear and equipment. If your child’s chosen activity requires gear, consider many of Calgary’s second-hand sports stores or gear-swap options.

For a couple local second-hand options, try:

The most important thing is that your pre-teen is enjoying their movement experience and reaping the mental and physical benefits of living an active lifestyle.

Helping facilitate your pre-teen’s recreational movement opportunities will affect their long-term participation and provide many real-time benefits such as mood, physical health, and sense of belonging.

This is the perfect time in your child’s life and stage of development to try something new, and actively search out activities in different environments that focus on different skills. The variety of each experience will help build a confident mover. So, move and move often! All movement is good movement!

Mairin is a third-year MRU Physical Literacy student, a sport and recreation educator, and a mother of three active children. 






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