Should You Encourage your Non-Athletic Child to Play Sports?   Before my husband started coaching, I was under the impression that, for the most part, kids who participated in youth sports were athletic. Not only did they enjoy competitive sports, but they had some innate talent that my husband would have the opportunity to help develop. I was excited to see how he would be able to help them see the greatness within themselves.

Child dressed in football gear waiting to catch a ball on a green lawn with the text: Should You Encourage Your Non-Athletic Child to Play Sports? - Kids Activities Blog
How hard should you push Your Child to Play Athletics?

Should You Encourage your Non-Athletic Child to Play Sports?

I asked my husband to talk about coaching a non-athletic child and to give his advice on if non-athletic children should be encouraged to play sports (he is a football coach and wrestling coach). 

Advice for Non-Athletic Kids Parents from Coach

After our first practice, I remember sitting in my car feeling a bit overwhelmed. Not only were there a lot of kids on the team who really didn’t want to play sports, but the majority of them weren’t overly athletic. In fact, some of them had actually come up to me and said they didn’t like sports.

As a coach, finding ways to help the kids on my team who aren’t athletic enjoy playing is always a great challenge. I make it my personal mission to figure out something, at least one tiny thing, that they’ll enjoy and help them do that every practice and game.

As a parent, I understand the conflict between wanting to encourage team sports while also respecting a child’s desire not to get involved in competitive sports. The struggle is, as they say, very real.

The good news is that even non-athletic kids can have a blast being physically active. The key is to find out what gets them excited. Here’s how I help the non-athletic kids on my teams.

How to Help a Non-Athletic Child on a Sports Team

1. What Do You Like?

I start each season off by asking the kids on my team what they like to do. I encourage them to think beyond the scope of sports at first and then we narrow it down. Some kids say they don’t like anything besides running. Others say they love throwing the ball but hate running.

There’s no right or wrong answer – even if they say they don’t like anything about the sport because they don’t like running or throwing.

The trick is to get them involved by figuring out what they do like to do. Have them try out different positions on the team to see if any of them are better than others. It may take all season to find the perfect fit, but it doesn’t matter, because you’re showing them that you’re invested in them and that their strengths are valuable. That positive reinforcement may be the highlight of their week.

2. Try Something Different Even if it Isn’t Traditional Sports

I once had a parent frustrated because his son seemed apathetic about playing football. He wasn’t a very athletic kid and, when I asked him, he admitted that he was only playing, because his parents had made him.

However, when I asked what kind of physical activity he did like, he spent 15 minutes telling me about how he loved hiking with his dad. I mentioned to his dad how much he loved hiking with him and how much more excited he was about that than he was football.

I think dad got the picture… because they started going on more hikes and the boy eventually quit football. I always tell parents that story at the beginning of the season, because I want to encourage them to look at kids sports as just one way they can help their kids be active. If your child isn’t into a particular sport, try something else! Just because you like the sport doesn’t mean that your child will.

3. Maybe You Just Need Practice

While some people seem to be born as athletes, the majority of us have to work at it. Some have to work harder than others, but if there’s pleasure in pursuing the sport, it’s worth the effort. There have been many children come through my teams who, while not natural athletes, loved the idea of playing.

If your child loves the sport he’s playing but isn’t naturally athletic, the best thing to do is practice. Practice looks different depending on your child’s age, but for young kids, it should be fun.

Practicing can be playing a game of catch in the backyard, dashes from one side of the field to the other, and a lot of laughter are a great way to start.

Practice doesn’t have to make perfect, but it will make progress.

Helping your non-athletic child succeed in sports means giving up pre-conceived notions and expectations. Be willing to adjust your dreams for your child and replace them with your child’s dreams for himself. At the end of the day, if your child isn’t happy playing a sport, it’s simply not worth pushing him to do so.

Related: Check out this post on how to manage their sport’s schedule

Active Kids Activities Even if You Are Not Athletic from Kids Activities Blog

Please share your advice and experience dealing with sports and a no-athletic child in the comments below.

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1 Comment

  1. I love this conversation around what to do and how hard to push a child who is not athletic or drawn to sports. Living in the south it has been challenging to opt out of some of the regular sporting events due to “everyone is doing it”. Thanks for the insight on helping kids choose the right thing for them when it comes to athletics