I’ve been lucky I guess. My son loves to play sports and my daughter is just starting out.
This is partnered guest post.
Participating in sports as a child is fun, healthy and educational. But what if your child doesn’t seem motivated to join a team? Read on for five tips on how to encourage your kid to engage in sports.
Find a Sport They Like, Not One You Like
To motivate your child, help him or her find some ownership in the target sport. If possible, get them to tell you what sport they’d like to play. If their favorite sport isn’t available or if they refuse to choose, try to find one that’s closest to their interests. Find other ways to have them “own it,” like using iron on clothing labels with sport designs for younger children, or giving gifts of pro sports jerseys or autographed equipment for older kids. However, try not to pressure an unmotivated child into playing a sport just because you did when you were younger. Children who are already anxious about playing or who have decided that they dislike a certain sport may worry about disappointing their parents if they don’t perform well in a sport that you love.
Engage in the Sport’s Culture
When you do get an unmotivated child to try a sport, try to broaden his or her horizons by exposing the child to the sport outside of practice time. If your kid is involved in ice skating, for example, check out online videos of speed skaters from the last Olympics. If your child plays softball and your company has a team, bring her along to one of their games to cheer on your coworkers. Show your child that there is a whole community of people who enjoy the sport. If your location makes it difficult to find resources for this kind of outside engagement, talk to your child’s coach to see if he or she has any ideas.
Work With Your Kid’s Coach
In fact, it’s a good idea to talk to your child’s coach often. Has the coach noticed the same unmotivated behavior at practice that you see at home? Sometimes, parents and coaches find themselves on opposite sides of an opinion about a child’s ability and performance in a sport. Whatever your own feelings, be careful what you say about the coach in front of your child. Even if you think a coach has made a mistake, try to talk to him or her about it without your child present. Children don’t always grasp the nuances of adult interactions, so they might misinterpret a parent’s frustration. Plus, children take their cues about whom to trust and respect from their parents — if they see Mom or Dad distrusts or disrespects a coach, then they may adopt that behavior as well.
Make It Social
One of the best reasons for children to play sports, in addition to the health benefits, is the social aspect of playing. They’ll be in a group in a structured environment, learning about teamwork and healthy living. However, being the “new kid” is not easy, especially for a child who is anxious about the sport in the first place. Invite some of her teammates over for a play date after practice, or see if any of the other kids’ parents are up for a weekend excursion. The more social bonds your child makes at practice, the more motivated he or she will be to play the sport.
Be Kind but Firm
If you’ve let your child pick her own sport, engaged in the sport’s culture outside of practice times, helped create a social atmosphere and built up a rapport with her coach, what should you do if she still doesn’t feel motivated to play? The answer to this question depends on several factors. First, you need to consider your child’s health. If your son stops playing basketball, will he get enough exercise from his other activities? If your daughter stops soccer practice, will she take dance lessons instead to stay active? If your child wants to quit a sport after a few practice sessions, you need to be kind but firm when you talk to him about it. Don’t automatically let them off the hook because they don’t want to attend this sport’s practice. If your child is already part of a team and leaving mid-season will damage the team’s chances for further competition, that’s another factor that you must discuss with your child. Don’t teach him or her that it’s OK to quit something and let other people down. If the sport is making your child truly miserable, see if you can negotiate a way that he or she makes up the loss of exercise or commitment to others.
About the Author: Peg King is a retired physical education teacher who writes about trends in youth sports education and fantasy football. She divides her time between Maine and Florida.