Summer’s here and your child is still growing. So, this is a perfect to time to relook at the size and fit of your son or daughter’s athletic gear. After all, there’s no price a parent can put on making sure their equipment fits right and protects them properly.
When sizing a child for their sporting equipment, safety should be the buyer’s number one priority. Some may think that sizing and fitting their next Little Leaguer is easy; however, parents should be aware that every piece of equipment requires paying attention to the little details.
Think ‘head first’
With the recent research on concussions and the long-term damage such an injury can have on not just an individual’s sports career, but their long-term quality of life, fitting your child should start with the helmet. According to KidsHealth.org, a child’s growth creeps up consistently every year until he or she reaches puberty. And when your child reaches puberty—where a marked growth spurt usually occurs—a parent should be especially careful about monitoring the size and fit of any athletic headgear.
“The concussion stuff now is all new and it’s being looked at so closely,” says Minnesota Wild equipment staff member Garett Hoglund. “Just three, four, maybe five years ago, we didn’t see any of this.” As a result, Hoglund counsels parents to prioritize preventing head injuries over other off-season equipment purchases. “Spend the extra 40 dollars on the helmet rather than the nicest pair of gloves.”
Next, focus on feet
You have to make sure your child’s athletic footwear fits properly. If a young hockey player’s skates or a budding soccer star’s cleats don’t fit properly, they’ll be uncomfortable, blisters could develop, and this could put extra wear and tear on their ankles.
According to the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, there are some telltale signs your child’s footgear is due for replacement. “Excessive wearing of the outsole, loss of shoe counter support, or wearing out in the midsole indicates it's time to replace the shoes.”
When it comes to buying new shoes, the AAPSM has some other tips. First, rather than purchase one pair of expensive shoes, podiatrists agree that it’s often better to buy two mid-priced pairs of athletic footwear. This way, the shoes can be alternated to avoid excessive wear. Also, because a child’s feet are always growing, the organization advises parents to allow for at least one finger's width from the end of the longest toe when buying new shoes. And in the shoe store, the AAPSM suggests children put on both shoes and socks and walk around with laces tied tight for several minutes to check true fit. Finally, one other piece of advice: “Shop for shoes in the afternoon, when the feet are naturally slightly swollen.”
Look at what’s in your kid’s hands
Here, parents can exercise a little more leniency when it comes to having the latest gear, as things likes sticks and bats can often make it through multiple seasons.
At retailer Hockey Giant in Bloomington, Minn., sales associate Justin Lehrke notes this is particularly true for the youngest athletes. “We have parents that come in here with their kids younger than six years old who are worried about the lie, or curve, on the blade of the stick,” he says. But the stick or bat you use before the early teen level will have little to no effect on your long-term playing career, he says.
Instead, the key to a young player’s career is confidence, wanting to go to practice, wanting to get better and having fun. So, instead, Lehrke counsels taking a bit more playful approach. “If your kid likes the color green and wants a green stick, buy him the green stick.”
Some good rules of thumb for sizing: If your child can’t hold onto his or her bat with one hand for longer than 20 seconds without shaking, it’s too heavy. Also, the length of a hockey stick should roughly reach up to the player’s nose when he or she is standing in bare feet.
Finally, try any new gear out in person before you buy
Many sporting good stores now have online pages with size and fitting help and that is a great place to start any search for new athletic gear. Just remember, though, that it is still better to go into the store and get fitted properly by someone who knows your sport because every young athlete’s physique and athletic needs are different and constantly changing. Take the time to get it right the first time.
At the end of the day, parents should want to keep their young athletes active and safe playing sports. Having the right and properly sized equipment is key to doing just that.