My Kid Doesn’t Want to Play Sports. Now What?

Sports Aren’t for Everyone

The pressure to have your kids play a sport is real. And sports simply are not for everyone.

My husband and I both played sports, from childhood into high school. We also both happened to grow up in very small towns… which meant pretty much anyone who wanted to could be on the team.

I had hardly even picked up a tennis racket when I joined the tennis team during my freshman year of high school. I ended up loving it. I probably spent more time with my teammates than I did with my own family. I made new friends, learned new skills, and stayed out of trouble (mostly!)

When we had children of our own, we signed them up for lots of little sports experiences. Swimming, tennis, basketball, T-ball, soccer, gymnastics… we wanted them to try lots of new things.

When my son was in 3rd or 4th grade, baseball started to feel a lot less like kids running around having fun and a lot more like the big leagues. I came to the realization that if we didn’t start paying for private lessons or travel league, my kid was not going to be any good. But, more importantly, I also realized that he wasn’t having any fun.

My husband, who loves baseball almost more than life itself, was devastated.

Cooper went on to try robotics, Battle of the Books, LEGO engineering… and eventually discovered that he loved the water.

Between our community education swim team, middle school swim team, and water polo, he is now in the pool almost year round. I still regularly ask him if he wants to take a break because I don’t want him to get burned out. He refuses to miss a practice. Not because he is afraid he will get in trouble, but because he loves it that much.

He regularly tells me that he feels relaxed and free when he swims. He told me, “I feel like I can do anything when I am in the water.”

That’s how you know your kid has found what he or she loves.

Practical Advice for Non-Sports Families

A friend of mine, Jill Boomstra, shared the following words of wisdom when talking about her own kids and this issue:  

In my experience, raising a “non-sports” kid affects us as parents more than the kid.  There’s an underlying perception that we should be busy with carpools, Facebook posts, weekends out-of-town and 5 minute meals on the run. Somehow, if I’m not overscheduled, it seems like I’m doing something wrong.

My oldest son could care less that he’s not on a team.  He never will. Honestly, the confidence he has in just being true to himself is his greatest gift. And I admire him for that.

My words of wisdom? Give them every opportunity to try sports when they are young. We did that. Tennis lessons, little league, basketball – he did it. But, also encourage them to take music lessons, fishing trips, robotics, art classes and 4-H.

It may take time, but they’ll fall into the very place where they are meant to be.

Be confident that you are doing what is best for your kid.  I often fall for the lie that I should be doing what everyone else is doing. Fortunately, I have this kid who displays daily that being “out of the norm” is actually a pretty good place to be.

Find What Drives Your Child – And Help Them Pursue It

So find what your kid loves and nourish it. Be it baseball or book reading, swimming or sewing, dancing or drawing, karate or coding… the best gift you can give your kids is the gift of your time and support.

1 thought on “My Kid Doesn’t Want to Play Sports. Now What?”

  1. I appreciate the fact that you’re opening up to other extra-circular activities if a child doesn’t have an interest in sports. I was like this in school, my father always wanted to push me into sports, but the fact was, it was a disaster, getting constantly benched, ridiculed and getting very little playtime if I screwed something up, and this just brought down my confidence and I was doing bad in school and was very depressed overall. Eventually, I picked up the bass guitar at 16 years old, which was a huge life-changer for me, not right away, but eventually in time. The only regret is that I didn’t pick it up at an earlier age, because studies show that playing a musical instrument can you better at math and science, but better late than never as they say.

    One thing I’ll add as well is that kids at a very young age, for the most part, will not know what’s best for them, and parents will put them into different kinds of sports or any other activities. But when kids get older, they’ll start to realize what’s truly best for them, and the parents really need to respect and support that.

    A child should get some sort of hobby, absolutely no doubt, but sports are not the only hobby out there, and thank you for seeing that 🙂

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