The Perfect 10
It's the age when a kid becomes a player—on the field and at the mall. Here's what's going on in his body and soul
While eight-and nine-year-olds tend to be conformists and willing to try a wide range of things, 10-year-olds will assert their independence and delve more deeply into their passions.
Because this 10-year-old is a boy, he's more likely to join a team first, then make friends among his teammates. Girls at 10 tend to join teams with their preexisting friends.
Most experts agree that a child can be exposed to sports as late as 10 and not be at a competitive disadvantage later. One exception is tennis. Coaches believe it's worth "grooving the strokes" as early as five.
At 10, kids are deep into their favorite player. They'd rather know everything about Shaq than a little bit about a lot of different players.
More and more kids are forsaking rec leagues to play on these elite squads. At 10, says one youth sports expert, travel-team coaches begin to pressure kids to play only one sport.
Though it is the team sport 10-year-old boys are most likely to play, more than 60% of them won't be playing the game six years later—one of the largest drop-offs of any sport.
When coaches and parents take the fun out of traditional sports with misplaced emphasis and boorish behavior, kids increasingly turn to the adult-free world of extreme sports, in which they can make their own rules.
Excessive training can cause repetitive-stress injuries that damage them. And damaged growth plates can diminish a child's ultimate adult height. Orthopedists recommend that a 10-year-old run no more than three miles a day.