Don't support programs that encourage lots of competition for youngsters. Look instead for programs that are committed to teaching children skills they can use. It's easy to put together programs that match up teams of children and have them play competitive games against each other, such as in soccer or baseball. It is much harder to take a group of ten-year-olds and teach them how to play soccer or baseball well. Yes, part of the learning should involve playing games. But do the kids really need to keep score to learn?
Look for sports activities that your child will enjoy. Parents often tend to put children in what I call the "Big 3" sports (soccer, baseball, basketball) because there are lots of youth programs out there in those sports. But your child might enjoy a less well-known sport such as kayaking, table tennis, archery, judo, or rugby. Yes, you have to search a bit harder to find alternative sports programs. But there are lots of them out there.
Consider whether your under-12 child needs to participate in competitive sports at all. What do you hope they get out of playing? Fitness, fun, and perseverance are answers I often hear from parents. Perhaps your child can meet these needs in other ways. How about your family going for long walks or runs together in the early morning or evenings? Why not learn how to bicycle together? Would you take classes with your child in rock climbing, swimming, or rowing? Such family-focused physical activities help children stay fit while having fun, and have the added benefit of giving the whole family an activity they can enjoy and share together.
Competitive sports programs are a big part of the growing-up experience for many children. But as parents, we should not accept current sports programs as being "best" for our children without examining the effect they have on our lives. There is lots of room for improvement.