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Finding the a team to join - soccer, basketball, volleyball?

Back when I was in high school, I played varsity sports - tennis, soccer, and basketball. I was occuppied every night of the week with practice or games.  I'd come home at 7pm, hungry and tired, without having done a bit of homework yet.  Those were long days, but I would never give up the experiences I gained from playing on team sports.  I learned life-long lessons in sportswomanship, determination, time management, and - perhaps most importantly - bonding and close friendships with my fellow teammates.

I went to a private school, where we had a team/league for every sport.  My brothers, who went to a public school, had our local sports leagues to fill their sports needs - mostly soccer and baseball.

My eldest is now 9, in fourth grade, and she really wants to learn a sport and find a team.  She has one extracurricular activity that we have committed to, but not a sport.  Are there sports leagues in town that you just find out about?  Do the public schools all have sports teams?  How else can we help her harness her interest and eagerness to learn about basketball and soccer - not only to learn the sport but also for friendly competition?

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Our school [Lewis Elementary in SE] offers before-school Yoga, and after-school Kung Fu Club options with high-quality instruction at an incredibly low rate of $10 a semester!

Traditional PE generally focuses on team sports, while MOST adults do not go on to participate in team sports as a lifelong fitness choice. Our child shies away from competition (see: tears, sense of defeat), and we felt likewise that she gets a lot of team time in school (we are lucky to also have a great PE teacher).

She actually has gained incredible confidence in gaining skills in both clubs as an individual...the instructors still focus on instilling classic life-skills with Sportsmanship, Incremental Gains, Cooperation, Focus, Interpersonal Skills, and a general approach to fitness just the same. Less pressure for our little one, with a good, wide skill base to draw off of!

Team sports are great, but I feel that we should be careful to look to her disposition, not overbook, and to help build her up to it by making a short variety of activities available to her over time first:)

We've really loved the sports options we found through Portland Parks & Rec community centers.

I also participated in team sports when I was in school. Overall, I have found them to be very different for my 11 year old. He goes to a public school and there are no team sports offered. As a parent, if your child is interested, you have to research the local offerings. Each sport has an independent league. Also, sports now tend to be much more competitive than when I was a kid. And taken much more seriously. Some of my son's friends only play one sport and practice it all year long to try to be extremely good at one thing (there was a great article about this in BrainChild a couple of years ago).

I agree that martial arts and other extracurricular activities end up being more rewarding in the end, but if you've got a kid that loves sports, then you have to support them in that, which sometimes means driving all over town to games, dealing with competitive parents and coaches, and making sure you make the registration deadlines (For fall soccer, generally the spring before)!

Most public schools in PPS do not have sports teams affiliated with them, and it can be hard to find a league if you're not already connected with the sport in some way. The Parks and Rec classes are a great way to try out different sports to see what your child likes. There are also some great summer sports camps that can be a good way to learn a sport and enjoy some competition. Concordia University runs both a basketball and a soccer camp that my son has attended and they have been excellent.

Here's some specific info that I know--maybe others can chime in with more.

Soccer: Look online at the PYSA (Portland Youth Soccer Association) page. There will be a list of associated clubs. Even the ones with school or neighborhood names (Alameda Soccer Club, Irvington Soccer Club) have no affiliation with those schools and you can join any soccer club, anywhere in the city. I think it's smart to pick one in your neighborhood, but you don't have to. There is spring soccer (games but no practices) and fall soccer. Registration for Alameda Soccer Club for fall soccer starts in May, usually. I don't know if other clubs are similar.

Baseball: Pretty much every one knows about Little League, so you just have to find out which league serves your neighborhood. You must register with that league. They will want proof of address and a birth certificate. Little League runs in the spring and there are often signs up around the neighborhood when it's time to register.

Basketball: There's a winter-time league through Parks and Rec which sometimes takes school-affiliated teams. I don't know how to join a team if you don't know of one, but I'm sure Parks and Rec can help you if there's a process. My son played basketball for a couple of years through NECC and that was a fabulous program.

Track and Field: I don't know anything about organized teams, but there are all-comers track meets at Grant High School on Tuesday evenings in the late spring/early summer.

Swimming: Parks and Rec runs summer swim teams in addition to their regular swim lessons.

Oh, and although many people do not play team sports as adults, there might be more than you think. I still play soccer, though it's indoor soccer these days. The schedule at Portland Indoor is so crowded with teams that the adult coed teams sometimes play midnight games. I know lots of adult men and women who play soccer, basketball, kickball, dodge ball, softball. I'm sure there are more people going to gyms and going running than participating on teams, but . . . ummm . . playing a sport is just that. It's playing. You get to be a kid again and have fun. But it's hard to pick up a sport as an adult if you didn't learn the basics as a kid.

Update for first time soccer moms (and dads):

I just visited the PYSA site and it doesn't have info on teams. I called them, however, and they were able to give me a number for my neighborhood league organizer (for whom I left a message). The scoop seems to be that they are enrolling now for fall league, and that spring is really a continuation of fall league (with no practices--just games--so not a good time to start a child). She said I could ask the league organizer whether they have any other activities in the spring that would be appropriate for a new child.

Our son has played recreational soccer with Eastside United (based in Gresham) for three seasons. Driving so far seems kind of crazy and the kids he plays with don't live anywhere near us, but the club is very well organized and I think he's getting the very best team sport experience. There are plenty of inexperienced players on his team even this year (he's 8). The coaches have been amazing and kind and understanding with my kid who tends to twirl his hair and leap around not really paying attention half the time.

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