Which Is Better for Kids: Karate or Soccer?

Young player running from his opposition

Well-structured sports offer numerous benefits to children when their parents are supportive and do not place unreasonable demands on them. Both soccer and karate can be excellent choices for children, and neither sport is objectively or consistently better than the other. The best sport is a subjective judgment based upon your child's individual needs, personality and preferences.

General Sports Benefits

All sports, including soccer and karate, encourage children to get active, to become comfortable with their bodies and to remain healthy. Sports also help to teach commitment to a team and to oneself, and can encourage children to keep and manage a schedule. It's important to note that, although sports can help children learn to manage their time wisely, too much time at any sport can interfere with your child's other pursuits.

Comparing the Benefits

Both karate and soccer encourage teamwork and cooperation. Karate has a long tradition of honor and requires that participants work on self-discipline, while soccer requires that children work together to achieve a shared goal. Soccer tends to be more group oriented than karate. Thus soccer may be a better choice for highly social children and for children who need more interaction with other children, while karate can be excellent for children who need to work on developing focus or who prefer more solitary pursuits. While both karate and soccer are competitive, children are exposed to daily competition with soccer. Karate tends not to attract loud, screaming fans, so children who are shy about performing in front of others may find karate more appealing.

Soccer is an excellent source of cardiovascular exercise because children spend most of their time running and jumping, while karate encourages general fitness and smaller, controlled movements. Children with extremely high energy levels may love the intensity of soccer, and the sport can also be a good choice for children who need to lose weight. Both soccer and karate encourage balance and coordination.

Comparing the Drawbacks

Although all sports carry a risk of injury, the risk of injury with soccer is greater than with karate because children may run into each other, fall while running or jump and land in awkward positions. Children who participate in karate are sometimes frustrated by the slow pace of the sport. It can take months or even years to make it to a competition, and the impressive martial arts displays children see on television are usually only a distant possibility for children in karate. The competitive nature of soccer can teach children teamwork and performance under pressure, but screaming fans can be overwhelming and frightening for shy children. Soccer requires group cooperation, but children who are extremely shy may feel overwhelmed or left out during soccer practice.

How to Decide

The most important consideration in choosing a sport is which sport your child wants to do. Children are unlikely to excel at sports they don't enjoy, and forcing your child into a sport she dislikes can set her up for failure. If she's not sure which one to choose, ask yourself about your child's weaknesses and strengths. A quiet, reserved child with intense focus may love karate, while a rambunctious, hyper-social child may thrive in the fast-paced soccer culture.