Choosing The Right Sport For You

Corey and Angie, twin brother and sister, enjoy playing all kinds of outdoor games and sports with their friends. They especially love playing pickup games of basketball and touch football. On particularly nice days, Corey and Angie have been known to kick around the soccer ball, toss around the baseball, or go on long runs.

In just a month the twins will be high school freshmen and neither can figure out which sport to try out for in the fall. Corey is deciding between football, soccer, and cross-country. Angie is debating whether to try her hand at a sport she has never played, like field hockey, or go with one she knows, like soccer or cross-country. They're facing a dilemma a lot of teens face — which sports to play and which sports to give up.

So Many Sports, Only One You!

For some people, choosing which sports to pursue throughout high school is hard because they have never really played an organized sport before and aren't sure what they'll most enjoy. For others it's a tough decision because their friends don't like to play the same sports.

No matter what your sports dilemma is, you have to make the decision that is best for you. If you're great at soccer but would rather play football because you think it's more fun, then give the pigskin a go (just make sure it's cool with mom and dad)!

Sports are meant to be fun. If there is a sport you really enjoy but you aren't sure if you can make the team, try out anyway. What's the worst that can happen? If you get cut you can always try another sport. And sports like cross-country and track don't typically cut participants from the team. You can still participate even if you're not on the meet squad.

Every Now and Then There's an "I" in Team

Some sports, like lacrosse or field hockey, require every person on the field to be on the same page. Sure, certain people stand out more than others but superstars don't necessarily make a good team!

Sports like tennis, track and field, cross-country, swimming, gymnastics, and wrestling are all sports where individual performances are tallied into team scores. Of course there are exceptions, like relays in track and swimming, but for the most part it's possible to win a solo event in these sports and still have your team lose or vice-versa.

No one knows you better than you do. Maybe you enjoy the spotlight. Maybe you get annoyed by the way teammates act when they are uber-competitive. Or maybe you just don't like competing with friends for a spot in the starting lineup. For whatever reason, team sports might not be your thing — and that’s fine. Luckily, there are many individualized sports to choose from.

If Your School Doesn't Have Your Sport

Some schools are limited in resources — a city school may not have a lot of fields, for example, while a rural school may not have enough students to make up a team for every sport.

A school's geographic region can also play a role. If you live in a climate where it snows from the fall to the spring, your school may not be able to participate in a lot of outdoor sports.

If your school doesn't have your sport, don't let it get you down. You can always try out for a different sport during the same season or look into whether your local town has a recreational league that you can join.

If Organized Sports Aren't Your Thing

Many people are attracted to the competition and popularity that can come with team sports. Others love the camaraderie and unity that are present in a team atmosphere. But for some people, teams are just frustrating and another form of cliques. If you're not the biggest fan of organized sports, where you have to follow someone else's schedule and rules, many other fun and exciting options are out there for you.

You might already have an exercise routine or activity you like to do in your free time, but if you're looking for something that will both keep you busy and allow you to blow off steam, try some of these activities:

Climb to the top. If you scaled trees and walls when you were younger, then the perfect activity for you is rock climbing. Rock climbing offers participants one of the best all-around workouts possible. As a rock climber, you work your hands, arms, shoulders, back, stomach, legs, and feet — ALL AT ONCE!

Take a hike (yes, you can bring your bike)!Ever wonder what kinds of cool things are waiting on those nature trails not too far from your house? Why not find out? While you're at it, you'll get a good workout. Hiking and trail biking are two great ways to learn about nature while still getting that heart rate up. Even if you are just going to a local trail, always bring at least one other person along in case something happens. If you're going for an intense multi-day hike, you should bring someone who is experienced and trained in hiking.

Water world … starring: YOU! The water is the perfect place to give yourself new challenges. There are plenty of water activities for all levels of difficulty and energy. Besides swimming, try canoeing, kayaking, fishing, rowing, sailing, wakeboarding, water skiing, windsurfing, and, if you're feeling particularly daring, surfing.

Find your inner self. Many activities can strengthen you physically and mentally. Workouts like yoga, Pilates, and T'ai Chi can be relaxing and taxing all at once.

• Yoga has tons of benefits. It can improve flexibility, strength, balance, and stamina. In addition to the physical benefits, many people who practice yoga say that it reduces anxiety and stress and improves mental clarity.

• Pilates is a body conditioning routine that seeks to build flexibility, strength, endurance, and coordination without adding muscle bulk. Pilates also increases circulation and helps to sculpt the body and strengthen the body's "core" or "powerhouse" (torso). People who do Pilates regularly feel they have better posture, are less prone to injury, and experience better overall health.

• T’ai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art form that is great for improving flexibility and strengthening your legs, abdominal or core muscles, and arms.

Make Sure to Take an Off-Season — But Not a Season Off!

Whether you choose one sport or three, make sure you give yourself a break from intense competition with some cross-training activities. Through cross-training you can take a rest from your sport or sports while still getting a workout and staying in shape.

Two examples of cross-training are swimming and cycling. They not only help build cardiovascular strength, but also help in muscle growth. Swimming can really help tone your upper body, while cycling strengthens your upper legs.

You can also try outdoor bike rides and runs on nice days, stopping periodically to do sit-ups and push-ups. These simple exercises can work and tone your core muscles.

That time between seasons is also the perfect opportunity to get into a strength-training routine. Before starting strength training, consult your doctor and school's strength and conditioning coach. Your doc will be able to give you health clearance to participate in the different types of physical activities, and your strength coach can come up with a workout to help you prepare for your specific sports.

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