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Choosing the Right Sport for You

Medically reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD

How Do I Choose the Right School Sport?

Sports are a great way to stay active, make friends, and be involved in something besides school work. Some people know exactly which sports to play in high school. For others, it’s a tough decision.

Sports are meant to be fun. If there’s a sport you enjoy but aren't sure if you can make the team, try out anyway. You won’t know unless you give it a try. And some sports, like cross-country and track for example, often let people participate even if they aren’t ready to compete in meets, matches, or games.

Is a Team Sport Best for Me?

Some sports, like lacrosse or field hockey, need every person on the field to be in sync. Sure, some players stand out more than others, but having all superstars doesn’t necessarily make a good team!

Sports like tennis, track and field, cross-country, swimming, gymnastics, and wrestling are sports where individual performances are tallied into team scores. There are exceptions, like relays in track and swimming, but for the most part you can win a solo event in these sports and your team still loses, or vice-versa.

What if I Don’t Like Organized Sports?

You know yourself best. Sports might not be your thing — and that’s fine. There are many non-sports activities that can help keep you fit and having fun.

You might already have an exercise routine or activity you like to do in your free time. But if you're looking for something to keep you busy and let you blow off steam, try some of these:

Rock climbing. Did you love scaling trees and walls when you were younger? Rock climbing offers one of the best all-around workouts. As a rock climber, you work your hands, arms, shoulders, back, stomach, legs, and feet — all at once!

Take a hike (or bike). Hiking and trail biking are great ways to learn about nature while still getting your heart rate up. Even if you're just going to a local trail, 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 activities. The water is the perfect place to find new challenges. There are plenty of water activities for all levels of skill and energy. Besides swimming, try canoeing, kayaking, fishing, rowing, sailing, wakeboarding, water skiing, windsurfing, and, if you're feeling particularly daring, surfing.

Take an Off-Season — But Not a Season Off!

Whether you choose one sport or three, give yourself a break with some cross-training activities. This means taking a rest from your sport or sports and doing something else. Doing so lowers your chances of getting an overuse injury while you still get a workout and stay in shape.

Two examples of cross-training are swimming and cycling. They can help your cardiovascular fitness and also work your muscles. Swimming can really help tone your upper body, while cycling strengthens your legs.

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

Another thing to do between sports seasons is get into a strength-training routine. Before starting strength training, talk to your doctor and school's strength and conditioning coach. Your doc can give you health clearance to do the different types of physical activities, and your strength coach can come up with a workout to help you prepare for your specific sports.

What Activities Can Help Me Relax?

Many activities can be relaxing and taxing at the same time. These three strengthen you physically and mentally:

  • Yoga can improve flexibility, strength, balance, and stamina. Besides its physical benefits, many people who practice yoga say that it eases anxiety and stress and improves mental clarity.
  • Pilates is a body conditioning routine that helps 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 and are less prone to injury.
  • 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.

What If My School Doesn't Have My Sport?

All schools can’t have every sport. 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 where it snows from the fall to the spring, your school might not do a lot of outdoor sports.

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

Whatever you choose remember to have fun while staying fit!

Medically reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD
Date reviewed: January 2021