Springtime is here and that means one thing – baseball is in full swing. Two and three year olds are trying out their first little sluggers classes. Four and five year olds are breaking in their new gloves, chasing grounders and hitting off a tee. Older kids are making new friends, catching pop flies and learning to pitch in Little League. Everybody seems to be having a ball. Well, maybe not everybody. What happens if your kid isn’t into sports? Maybe your little one has no interest in sports, or just isn’t athletically gifted. What should you do?
1. Relax! It’s not a big deal. Take a deep breath. Yes, sports stars make millions of dollars, and, yes, in the movies the stereotypical ‘popular kids’ are usually sporty and athletic. We live in a society that’s obsessed with sports, but there are millions (probably billions!) of happy, fulfilled kids and adults living rich lives that don’t involve organized sports. As long as you love and support them, your children will be fine with or without sports. Make sure you respect their interests and don’t make a big deal about it. You don’t want your child to feel like they’re doing something wrong by not loving sports.
2. Find out why your child doesn’t like sports. Kids’ interests and abilities change as they grow. Try to figure out why they don’t like sports before moving on. If your three-year-old throws a fit at soccer class, it may not mean they don’t like soccer – just that the class is too close to naptime. Or, if your five-year-old gets frustrated every time they miss a catch, your child may just need more practice to boost their confidence and another year to develop hand-eye coordination. But, if your seven-year-old has been miserable playing baseball for three years in a row, it’s time to focus on their other interests.
3. Don’t be a quitter. You’re half-way through a baseball class and your little one decides they hate baseball and wants to quit. Don’t let them do it! Unless there are extenuating circumstances (like bullying), don’t quit in the middle of a season or class. This isn’t about sports; it’s about not being a quitter. By sticking with it, you’ll be teaching your child a lifelong lesson about commitment and responsibility.
4. Get physical. Being physically fit is important for leading a long healthy life. Just because your son doesn’t want to grow up to be Alex Rodriquez, doesn’t mean he’s going to be a couch potato. Get outside and get active. Try different things like hiking, biking, roller blading, swimming, etc. Find the physical activities he likes and do them regularly. Luckily, physical fitness and playing organized sports aren’t one in the same. Also, don’t be afraid to try out different types of team sports - baseball might not be a hit, but a swim team may be his thing.
5. Deal with your emotions. The truth is that we live in a society that reveres athletes, and some parents may experience a sense of disappointment if their child is not into sports. Dad may have been looking forward to teaching him how to throw a curve ball and watching him hit his first homerun. Or, mom may remember how painful it was to always be picked last in gym class, and doesn’t want that for her little one. Deal with your own feelings honestly. Have an open conversation with your spouse or other adult.
6. Join a group and plan plenty of playdates. Sports are a social outlet for many kids. They make friends and establish a sense of camaraderie with their teammates. Don’t let your child miss out on fun and friendships. Think about joining groups that will promote socialization as well as other positive values such as Cub Scouts, Brownies or a church youth group. And, be sure to plan plenty of playdates and outings for your child so they have a chance to develop meaningful friendships with kids who share their interests.
7. Find their inner passion and get involved. You may not have a future MLB player on your hands, but you may be raising a future Steve Jobs, Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Yo-Yo Ma. Find your superstar’s passion. What gets them excited? Is it art, music, acting, building, technology or the outdoors? Get them involved. Try out things like acting classes, art classes, piano lessons, the Sierra Club, etc. Focus on their passion, and you’ll be helping them build confidence and a sense of identity.
Jessica is a freelance writer. She lives with her husband and three sons.
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