How to Encourage a Reluctant Child to Like Sports


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By Jason Verduzco

You’re not sure how it happened. Despite having the football game on every Sunday and offering to take them outside to play catch when they were little, you find yourself raising a child who absolutely hates sports. When other children fake a stomach ache to get out of a test, your kid fakes it to get out of gym class.

They read at recess instead of playing on the playground. You have to shoo them out of the house to get them fresh air. And while you love your kid, you also worry about their health when they’re not getting exercise and about their social life when they don’t understand the basics of sports.

So what do you do? While you can’t force your child to love something they hate, you can encourage them to find a sport to like. These tips can help.

Introduce Them to Non-Competitive Sports

For some kids, physical activity isn’t the enemy as much as competition. This can especially be true for kids who are a little bit clumsy and feel they’re not as good at sports as their peers are. Even if you’ve taught your kid to be a good loser, losing constantly isn’t fun for anyone. If, when your kid was younger, their peers squashed them again and again at physical sports, they may have learned an aversion to them.

One way to help them build hand-eye coordination, get physical activity in, and learn confidence is to introduce them to non-competitive sports. Horseback riding, swimming, and scuba diving are all great exercise and can teach your child hand-eye coordination. Check out this underwater scooter guide if you want to get your child started with non-competitive aquatic sports.

Teach Them the Rules

If your child didn’t pay attention to sports when they were younger, they may not have ever learned the rules to the games. Not understanding the rules can prevent games from being fun to watch and can lead to anxiety about playing games as well. Before determining that your child really doesn’t like sports, consider offering them some lessons on how the sports work.

This can be something you do when you’re watching sports with your kid. You can also take them out back and play sports a little more formally, using some of the rules from the actual game when you play with them to get them used to it.

Take Them to Live Games

Even kids who have never appreciated a game on TV may find that they enjoy watching sports live. There’s a different energy to a game when you watch it live. The excitement of the crowd can be contagious, and that combined with a little junk food they’re not normally allowed to eat can make a live game an exciting experience for any kid.

This can be a great jumping-off point to getting your kid more interested in sports. Teach them the rules of the sport first, take them to a live game, and then when you get home, reinforce it by pointing out players you saw in person or plays they might remember from the live game.

Play with Them

Kids love spending time with their parents. If you want your kid to show more of an interest in sports, lead by example. Say you’re going to go shoot a few hoops and ask if they want to come with. Try games like HORSE, which can help your children build confidence and learn skills without the pressure of a time limit and without people standing in their face, which can be intimidating for kids.

Also play with them outside of sports. Board games can help children learn the give and take of winning and losing, which can make competitive sports more tolerable. And playing games your kids are good at can give them a confidence boost in the house, making them better able to accept when they don’t have as many wins athletically.

Activities like bowling can also help kids build hand-eye coordination separate from building the stamina to run and jump. This can be a good bridge activity as you ease your child into the world of sports.

Not every child is going to like every physical activity you throw at them. By trying to force football down your child’s throat, you may end up only driving them to resent football. Instead, concentrate on helping your child build life skills, confidence, and hand-eye coordination while learning the rules to a few different sports. Then, see what they gravitate towards.

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  1. I’m definitely one of those parents you just described who are worried that their kids are not getting enough exercise especially at the age when they need it the most. My first-born spends the entire day using his Nintendo switch and I’m worried that the only active body parts he has are his hands. We’re also worried that he might be soon under the overweight category, so this might be a good time to intervene and introduce him to football. I’ll try using encouraging situations where he’ll be able to apply his skills like gaining new friends through the sport or earning scholarships in the future.

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