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What If My Kids Don’t Like Sports?

by Betsy Kellerman, ATC/LAT, Manager of the Overland Park Regional Medical Center Sports Medicine and Concussion programs

Not everyone likes organized sports or team sports. If this sounds like one of your kids, don't sweat it. With a better understanding or a few changes, you and your kids might find out there is an athletic activity out there that they could like. But if not, we'll suggest other fun ways to stay active.

Learning about sports

Sometimes, kids feel that they don't like sports because they might not understand how to play them or they haven't had much practice doing them. Sports can also seem complicated because of all the rules and special equipment. Remind your kids that athletes spend many years learning about sports and practicing how to do them well. So they shouldn’t feel bad if they don't know the difference between a "corner kick" and a "goal kick" in soccer before they start playing the game. If they want to learn more about a sport, you might see if your kids want to participate in camps or programs that introduce kids to new sports. These may be better than just joining a team that starts playing games right away.

A bad sports experience

Some kids don't like organized sports because they were once on a team and they didn't have fun. Maybe all of the other kids seemed to know what they were doing and your kid felt unsure.

Sometimes, kids on a team get so fired up about winning that they may yell or get upset at a player who makes a mistake. This can be stressful — especially if it's you who made a mistake!

But make sure your kids know that everybody makes mistakes sometimes and no one should tease them for it. If they do, encourage your child to talk with the coach or yourself so those other kids can be reminded about being understanding and respectful to each other.

Parents and coaches also can get upset about a game situation and put too much pressure on kids. Kids might feel confused and stressed out during games if they're not quite sure what they should be doing.

If your kid had a bad experience with a team, maybe it's time for them to try a new sport or a new league. Some leagues and programs emphasize skill building over competition — and some leagues don't even keep score.

The right sport

It can be easy to think of popular sports like baseball, softball, football and soccer as the only sports out there, but there are dozens of sports! What if the best sport for your child is volleyball, cheerleading or gymnastics? They'll have to try it and find out!

Just remember that different sports require different skills, so you'll want to encourage your child to try different sports to find one that suits them. Some activities you might not think of as sports, such as karate or cheerleading, are actually “sporty” and can be great for staying active.

If your child doesn’t like being on a team, that’s okay too. You might consider having them try an individual sport competitively or just for the fun. Some individual sports include:

  • biking
  • bowling
  • diving
  • golf
  • gymnastics
  • ice skating
  • in-line skating
  • martial arts
  • running
  • skateboarding
  • swimming
  • tennis
  • wrestling

What's the big deal about sports?

Kids might wonder why grownups want them to try sports and be active. There's a good reason: playing sports is a great form of exercise and exercise keeps the body healthy. Playing sports can also give kids a group of friends with common interests, an understanding of sportsmanship and something new and interesting to do.

We've already talked about the many sports to choose from, but there's even more good news — many other non-sport activities can provide exercise and keep you active, including playing at a playground, jumping rope, working in the garden, washing the car, raking leaves or making snowmen.

You also might find that by limiting the use of electronics — TV, computers, cell phones, etc. — for you and your children, you'll all just naturally be more active.

So, no, your kids don't have to play sports, but they might still find one they like. The most important thing is to keep your kids active without forcing them into a sport they really don’t enjoy even after giving it a fair try.

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