Youth sports can be an easy and affordable way to get kids active and healthy. But parents benefit, too.

Just ask Kyle Armstrong, a coach and father of three boys. Since 2005, Armstrong has coached flag football, soccer, basketball and baseball. He has seen the benefits of youth sports firsthand.

“I get to spend time with each of my boys while participating in sports and having fun,” he said.

Sports provide an outlet for children to learn basic athletic skills as well as teamwork, respect and perseverance.

“We may not always win, but it’s important to play hard and give it our best,” Armstrong said.

“I try to teach them the fundamentals of the sport, and sportsmanship is really important to me.”

Armstrong understands that children will not like every sport they try, but he feels that it’s important for parents to expose children to a wide variety to see what they like best. And he recommends that parents sign up for a recreational league first before jumping into a select or competitive league.

The cost, commitment and pressure of a competitive league may be too much for young children, especially if they’re new to understanding the sport and its rules.

“Give the sport a try,” he said. “Start and finish the season. But don’t force them to continue if they’re not interested.”

Finishing a season, even if a child is not fully enjoying the sport, is important because it teaches commitment and being part of a team. Children might not enjoy the sport after two weeks, but if they stick it out, they might after two months.

Youth sports provide an outlet for social interaction and responsibility, and they provide opportunities to be caring toward teammates. Some leagues start as early as 3 years old and focus on basic skills, learning to listen and follow directions.

– By Valerie Koehler, momaha.com writer

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GET YOUR KID IN THE GAME

Amanda Sindelar, youth sports director for the Sarpy County YMCA, gives six tips on what to look for to ensure that your child is enjoying the sport he or she is participating in:

Ask questions. Ask if your child enjoys practice and weekly games.

Is your child complaining about practice or hesitant to go to a game? He or she may not be enjoying the sport.

Is your child getting along with his teammates? Children who have friends or make new friends during practice are more likely to enjoy the sport.

Is your child excited to bring snacks to the game? Bringing snacks gives the child the responsibility to provide the team with a treat — win or lose.

Does your child talk excitedly about practice or games? If your child is excited about a new skill or highlights a play during practice, you can be sure that he or she is enjoying the sport.

Are you involved? Parents can become coaches, assistant coaches, team moms or plan team activities. When parents get involved with their child’s sports teams, the child is more likely to enjoy it.

– By Valerie Koehler, momaha.com writer

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HOW MUCH WILL IT COST YOU?

Don’t shy away from sports because of the cost. Youth sports can be affordable, said Amanda Sindelar of the Sarpy County YMCA.

Here are some items that your child will need to participate in his or her favorite sports. Most clubs and associations provide the team jerseys.

Baseball: glove, baseball pants and shoes; cost: $30-$100

Basketball: shorts and shoes; cost: $40-$75

Flag football: mouth guard, shorts and shoes; cost: $30-$80

Soccer: shorts, socks, shin guards and shoes, and a soccer ball may be needed for practice; cost: $25-$100

Softball: glove, softball pants and shoes; cost: $55-$125

Swim team: racing suit, goggles and swim cap; cost: $50-$100

Swim lessons: swimsuit and goggles; cost: $15-$50

T-ball: glove, shorts and shoes; cost: $35-$60

Volleyball: knee pads, shorts and shoes; cost: $40-$100

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WHAT CAN YOU DO ON YOUR OWN?

Sports are great for promoting physical fitness and team-building. But sports are not always an option, so find other ways for your family to get active.

You can look in your neighborhood to find ways to utilize the landmarks and resources locally.

>> Plan a scavenger hunt using the GPS on your smartphone or other device.

>> Swim or wade in a local lake.

>> Hike at a state park.

>> Climb the stairs at a local landmark or shopping mall.

>> Find a local attraction to tour and combine other physical activities with the tour.

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PLAN AHEAD SO YOU DON’T MISS THE WHISTLE

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The game is in an hour, but your child is not even close to being ready. You’re still looking under beds for baseball cleats, and the glove might (hopefully) be in the toy chest.

Don’t stress. Local experts share their best tips for getting you out the door and where you need to be on time.

>> Make a daily itinerary. Know what things are going on and when, and when you should leave so you can get there on time, said Omaha mom Tiffany Costello, 28.

>> Wake up early enough to get other tasks out of the way, Costello said. The mother of four said when you get things done early, the

kids won’t be in the way and life won’t be so hectic.

>> Review the practice and game schedules as soon as you receive them, said Brandon Palmer, 35, the Salvation Army Kroc Center’s director of sports and recreation.

>> Post the schedule. Place it “in a visual area so that everyone in the household (can see it) and knows what is going on,” Palmer said.

>> Be proactive. Palmer said it is important to call coaches ahead of time when weather becomes a conflict. Call and ask where the practice will be held if there is a change or if it is canceled.

>> Plan meals ahead of time. Whitney Ceas, 26, a Hy-Vee registered dietitian, said: “Plan ahead by having things ready for the next day or by picking foods that are easy to grab, such as fruit (bananas, peaches, plums) or nuts and nut butters that you can put on apples.”

>> Pair a snack with protein. “That will help keep them full,” Ceas said. “For example, peanut butter and apple slices or celery sticks. The grab-and-go ones do just fine, but if you make your own, remember to use portion size.”

>> Prepare the night before. Palmer said to “have all the gear in a bag and ready to go.”

>> Designate a specific spot in the child’s bedroom for the uniform, said Amy Tokos, 43, of Freshly Organized. “Don’t spread (sports gear) throughout the entire room.”

>> Teamwork by both parents helps, Costello said. It is important to be on the same page with everyone in the family and to help each other out.

– Shauna Brayman, momaha.com intern

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READ MORE: Check out an electronic version of Momaha Magazine’s August issue. You’ll find ways to get your kids involved in organized sports, learn the benefits of being an active family and find out how to multitask and get to the game on time.

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