Playing sports is more than a fun activity for children.
The physical activity helps kids become stronger, more coordinated and have better balance. It also helps with lung development and function.
Sports can also help kids have a more positive self-image, and teach them teamwork, respect, communication and time management.
Of course, sometimes getting kids to be interested in sports isn’t so easy — and telling them all of the physical and mental benefits isn’t going to convince them, no matter how old they are.
Even kids who start off playing sports at a young age may end up quitting sports entirely by the time they enter high school.
Here are some tips that can help your child get interested in sports, no matter how old they are.
SHOW THEM HOW IT’S DONE
Our kids don’t just repeat the words we say — they also imitate our behaviors.
Do you have a regular exercise routine, even if it’s not on a competitive team? Talk about what you do and how much you enjoy it. If you can, make sure your child sees you do these activities too. If it’s safe, invite them to join in too.
If you don’t currently have an exercise routine, start one — and incorporate your child. It can be as simple as going on walks or bike rides together, or as involved as learning to ice skate or play a new sport together.
TRY, TRY, TRY AGAIN
Not every child is going to be interested in the same sport, but just because they aren’t interested in one doesn’t mean another won’t spark their interest.
Give your kid opportunities to try a lot of sports in non-competitive environments. Teach them how to play your favorite sport(s) using equipment you may already own. Take them to the gym and teach them how to play basketball. Head to a place like Blackthorn Topgolf Swing Suite, where they can try to play golf, baseball, hockey, football, and dodgeball with a virtual screen and gauge their interest.
Look at how your child spends their free time. What physical activities do they like? Do they always want to go swimming in the summer? Maybe competitive swimming or water polo is the right sport for them. Does your child like to play tag? Soccer might catch their interest, but you can also try rugby, lacrosse or track and field. See how they’re enjoying themselves and ask them what they like and don’t like about these experiences, and keep trying different sports that have similar qualities. That can help find the right sport for them.
MAKE IT FUN
For kids, one of the scariest parts about trying a new activity is not being good at it. Instead of focusing on how great they are (or aren’t) at a sport at first, focus on how much fun it is to play the sport and learn how to do it best. Once your child enjoys playing, then you can start focusing on building skills and techniques.
If your child wants to practice drills at home, make a game out of it, and play as long as your kid wants to play.
STICK WITH IT
Once your child finds a sport they like, sign them up for a competitive team. Cheer them on at games and help them practice at home. Of course, even if they think they like this sport, it’s not uncommon for kids to want to quit if they feel like it’s too hard or too big of a commitment. Tell them that they have to finish out the rest of the season and then they can decide to quit after if they want. They might enjoy the sport a lot more once they make friends with their teammates, have fun and improve their skills.
WATCH SPORTS TOGETHER
Our kids don’t just like to mimic our behavior — they like to mimic the behaviors of other people they idolize, like professional athletes. Take your kids to watch a variety of sports live in person. There are a lot of opportunities for a wide variety of sports at the University of Notre Dame. You can also check out regional teams like the South Bend Cubs and Fort Wayne Komets, or head to a nearby city for professional games. It’s also a great opportunity to bond with your kid!