How to Help Kids Find a Sport They Enjoy
Participation in organized athletics can help develop kids' discipline, motivation to achieve goals, commitment to a shared endeavor, and cooperative spirit. More simply, it can also provide a healthy way to socialize and spend time with others kids of the same age. By listening to your kid and offering them your support and understanding, you can identify what sport will benefit your child the most. In turn, there are steps you can take to help them enjoy the sports they choose to participate in.
Encouraging Kids to Play Sports
1,Listen to them. Kids are most likely to both enjoy and benefit from participating in a sport if they have the freedom to choose to do so themselves. As a parent or guardian, look to support the interests they share with you.
Organized physical competition can be intimidating for some children. If your kid is seemingly uninterested in team sports, ask them why. For instance, say “Jenny, I heard lots of your friends are signing up for soccer. Have you thought about signing up too?”
Kids that claim to be disinterested in team sports may wind up enjoying them as their skills improve or they try a new sport or join a new team. Focus on the fun they could have by joining in on an activity with a bunch of their friends.
2,Think about the big picture. You want them to develop into a happy, healthy, and confident adult. You may also hope that they excel in sports and earn a scholarship to help pay for college. Realistically, team sports are much more likely to offer the former than the latter - and it’s important to remember that the former is much more important. Don’t think about what a kid will be the best at, think about what they are most likely to enjoy and benefit from.
Social, emotional, and physical development are best facilitated by activities a child actually wants to be involved in. Even if they’re a wrestling star, it won’t do them much good to wrestle every day if they don’t enjoy it.
To help your child find the sport they will benefit from the most, think about more than just their abilities. The other kids (and parents) involved in a particular sport, the opportunities in your area, and your child’s physical condition are all important to consider.
3,Encourage them to play two or three sports a year. Many, many parents push their children too hard. This can happen by either pushing a kid to play one sport too aggressively, or by pushing a kid to play too many sports in general. Prevent doing either by listening to your child and encouraging them to participate, but primarily in the capacity that they want to do so.
Pressuring a kid to participate in a single sport year round can make them feel like it’s a job. Not only will they lose interest, they will likely receive less enjoyment from participating, even if they continue to do so.
On the other hand, playing four different sports can simply be too much. Two or three seasonal sports for year is ideal.
Worry less about the particular sport, and more about finding the sport that will keep your kid interested. You can help most simply by encouraging them to participate in something - and leaving the specifics up to them.
4,Attend a practice. There are a few important criteria to consider from a guardian’s perspective. You’re likely already considering things like a potential coach’s qualifications, and your child’s ability to contribute. You can easily get insight that can fill you in by attending a practice, either with your kid or on your own.
Pay attention to how a coach interacts with their players. Children's coaches should always focus on allowing and encouraging every kid to put forth their best effort. Signs to watch out for are coaches that give too much attention to talented participants, or disparage any of their players.
Look for positive signs too. Talk to other parents that may be there, and ask how they feel about the league and the coach. Most importantly, pay attention to the kids themselves.
If all of the kids are enjoying themselves, share this information by saying something like. “You know, it really seemed like all of the kids were enjoying themselves out there. Have you thought about giving it a try?”
5,Be honest, positive, and supportive. While physical size doesn’t have to keep your kid out of sports, they may be hesitant to participate because they are bigger or smaller than the other kids. If, for instance, a kid resists participating in a certain sport for physical reasons, encourage them to consider a different sport.
Heavier kids may lack the endurance or willingness to run, but may find out that they’re excellent swimmers. A shorter kid may not be keeping up in the sports they want to play, but might really take to something new.
6,Acknowledge any personal concerns. If your child is interested in a sport that you have reservations about, share your concerns with them directly. It's important to convey that you have a serious reason for opposing something they want to do. Avoid simply disallowing them from participating without giving them a reason.
For instance, say something like "There's a lot of evidence that kids who play football are more likely to hurt their brains. Brain injuries can even affect your thoughts and emotions later in life. I'm not comfortable with you playing a sport that increases that risk."
Similarly, if expenses or time are a concern, you may be able to talk to a coach and find out about borrowing equipment, or ask other parents and coaches to drive your kids to out-of-town events. Of course, you may not have these options.
Point out the advantages of another option by saying something like, "Boxing does seem like a lot of fun, but it's too dangerous. Have you thought about judo?" or "I don't think I'd be able to come to many of your ice hockey games since they're all out of town, but have you thought about playing roller hockey?"
Looking Beyond Traditional Team Sports
1,Consider other fitness opportunities for kids. The fact of the matter is that not everybody likes team sports. This is entirely okay. It is still important, of course, for your kid to get exercise, and doing so in the context of organized athletics still provides advantages like learning commitment and developing social skills outside of the classroom.
Keep working with a kid who is resistant to physical activity until you find something they are interested in trying. The important thing, from a guardian’s side, is to remain supportive and encouraging. They may wind up only being interested in skateboarding or bowling - but both of these can help them stay active, make friends, and commit to improving at something of their own volition.
2,Mention athletic options for kids who like music. Does your kid like music? There are plenty of ways to blend this interest with fitness. Dance, figure skating, and band all offer many of the benefits kids can get from participating in sports. In truth, they’ll wind up with an additional advantage, as a love of music often stays with people their whole lives.
Dance doesn’t have to be traditional. In fact, many kids may not be enthused by ballet. Hip-hop, Irish dance, or musical theater, on the other hand, may have them looking forward to every lesson.
DVDs or YouTube videos are great ways to explore different styles of dancing in particular. If the interest sticks, look for opportunities in the nearest city to add a social component to their practice and performance regimen.
3,Try outdoor sports with your kid. Another way to engage a kid that might not be convinced by the spectacle of team sports is to take them out into the wild. Even from a very young age, many kids simply take to the outdoors, and bringing them on hikes or canoeing trips is likely to perk more specific interests as they age.
More specifically, trail running, kayaking, rock climbing, and snow sports are all increasingly popular with young people. If there’s any outdoors activities you enjoy, always invite them to join you - and offer to try something new that they’re interested in with them.
4,Ask your kid if they’d be more interested in physical activity that includes animals. Got an animal lover in your home? Understandably, they may not be too keen on hugging a pigskin. That said, there a plenty of sports that may resonate with kids who would rather spend time with live animals.
For instance, training and playing with the family dog can lead to exercise, planning, goal-pursuit, and even socialization with other dog owners and trainers.
Equine sports are another realm of social and athletic interaction too. While these sports can be expensive to participate in, they provide an entire network of friends and competitors for many youth.
Helping Kids Enjoy Sports
1,Don’t overemphasize competition. Though this can be hard for older folks to keep in mind, kids don’t care nearly as much about the score as some parents do. While emotional expression following a win or loss will be evident, kids are less likely to obsess about the outcome of a game. It’s for more often the case that they just want to physically express themselves, socialize with friends, and - perhaps most of all - have fun.
In fact, the difference between adult and child priorities is often a significant factor in kids losing interest.
For example, when talking about a game later in the day, don’t mention the score. Instead, mention specific things a kid did well, or moments when it seemed as though they were having fun.
As an example, “That pass you sent across the baseline was brilliant. What a great angle!”
2,Ask open-ended questions about how they feel. It’s usually the parents that keep bringing up the score or the child’s position on the team, but it can be a lot more constructive and supportive to simply ask how they’re enjoying the sports they’re involved in. For instance, ask something like, “How’d practice go today?”
It’s perfectly okay to offer advice too, though it should always come with acknowledgements of what your kid is doing well. Also, the more specific your comments, the more helpful they will be.
For instance, instead of saying, “You could definitely throw further if you wanted,” say something like, “It seems like you’ve been getting to the ball more often and have been making some solid throws. Have you considered using your shoulder more on the long throws?”
3,Practice with them. One of the best ways to encourage your kid’s participation and improvement is by enjoying a sport with them. Passing a baseball or soccer ball back and forth in the yard not only gives you quality time together, it also offers the chance to talk about different ways to execute different movements.
Do some research to supplement your own knowledge too. If, for instance, you don’t know how to shoot a basketball but your kid is increasingly interested in the sport, watch some YouTube videos about proper shooting form. That way, next time you’re shooting around together, you can offer some helpful, supportive advice.
4,Don’t compare your kid to other kids. Just don’t do it. You’re talking about a children’s sports team. Your kid is also very likely already comparing themselves to everyone around them, and what they need is your support.
Instead, encourage kids to set and achieve personal goals. For instance, recording and working to improve their mile time incrementally, or learning a new ball handling move once a week are constructive, achievable goals.
Remind your kid that no one is perfect whenever it seems necessary to do so. Simply say something like, “Making mistakes is part of getting better at something, and everyone does it. I’m proud of you for sticking with it.”
It may also help to recommend a way to move past mistakes. For instance, tell a kid to try something like making a fist each time something doesn’t go their way, and slowly releasing the tension while letting the frustration go too.
5,Watch out for signs of burnout. If signs of burnout develop, sit down with your kid to talk about how they’re feeling about the sports they’re involved in. Never force them to continue participating in a sport that is causing them distress.
Specific signs of burnout include excuses to skip practice or competitions, never mentioning the sport, and a lack of excitement about participating in activities on and off the field.
If your kid is tired all of the time, isn’t eating well, has lost their appetite, or suffers from frequent nausea and headaches, these may be signs of depression. Encourage them to take it easy for a while, and ask if they’d like to see someone they could talk to about anything they wanted. If so, set up an appointment for them to meet with a mental health professional.