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Tackling sport with your reluctant child
Is your child reluctant to lace up and take to the field or court? Should this concern you and exactly how far should you push them to take up a sport?
Not all of us are born with power and grace of Chad Le Clos or the agility of Christian Ronaldo, but even if your child is still mastering coordination and is reluctant to take up a sport, encourage them to do so - whether it’s an individual or team sport. As a mom of two and life coach for kids and teens, here’s what I know :
Firstly, there are the developmental and physical benefits of exercise. Sports help children improve fitness, develop stronger muscles, improve agility, coordination and balance, develop fine and gross motor skills. Regular exercise keeps the obesity beast at bay, helps manage stress and helps children slew off the frustrations of being sat in the classroom all day.
Sports improve emotional intelligence by teaching your child social skills such as communicating more effectively, controlling emotions, co-operating and playing with others - all of which build stronger relationships.
Unlike his more sociable sister, my son tends to be more of an introvert and enjoys doing things on his own. Although his personality is more suited to individual sports, playing a team sport (in his case, soccer) has taught him how to be part of a team and to collaborate and co-operate with others. This will stand him in good stead at school when he must work in a group and benefit him in the workplace later in life. So even if your child’s natural slant is more towards individual sports, encourage them to join at least one team sport – even if this is on a social level.
Sports also improve your child’s confidence and self-esteem as they become more skilled. This gives them a sense of pride and achievement in their abilities. My son is sometimes reluctant to try new things but being part of a team makes it easier to put himself out there, since the spotlight is not on him as an individual (unless of course he scores the winning goal - in which case his quite happy to be in the spotlight!)
Be careful not to stampede on their self-esteem though! Leave your lost dreams and unfulfilled Olympic fantasies at home. It’s not about the win! As soon as you make it about winning, with a reluctant child, you’ll put them off it for good. Always celebrate their participation and commitment. A win or outstanding performance is just a bonus, especially if you’ve stood in your Wellies sloshing through a muddy field for the better part of your Saturday morning.
They are learning discipline and time-management too through getting to practice or games on time. This can be especially challenging for children with executive functioning deficits such as a child with ADHD. Sports help improve executive function skills such as planning and organizing, flexibility, and time-management.
If all of this is not enough to convince you, remember that sport teaches respect! It helps our young wards to take leadership and respect coaches, referees, team-mates and opponents. Both my children are extremely competitive and hate to lose (well who doesn’t?). Sport has helped them to better deal with losing and not always being first in everything. They’ve also learnt that life is not always fair and sometimes you just have to accept that things didn’t go your way.
Sports teach patience – for example having to wait your turn or waiting for the game to start. In the age of instant (almost) everything and the fast pace of modern life, patience is something that needs to be cultivated.
Lastly, sports teach leadership skills as well as how to be a team-player. Children need to develop both these skills. Not everyone is a natural-born leader or team-player for that matter. Again, this will benefit your child throughout their lives.
As you can see, the benefits of playing sport, especially team sports, are enormous. Your encouragement and support are well worth the effort when you think about the skills your child will learn and the long-term benefits. On that note, it’s off to the sports field I go…
- Sharon Piel
About the writer
Sharon is a certified life coach and mother of two. Among her other qualifications, she holds diplomas in Life Coach, Child Psychology, and Cognitive Behavioural Coaching. She is passionate about children and issues relating to childhood, social and emotional learning and education.