How to help your child enjoy sports

How to help your child enjoy sports

Although after-school sports are a fixture at most schools, recently collected data suggests that the number of children participating in sports is decreasing every year. Below are possible reasons for the downward trend and how you can inspire your children to enjoy sports.

The Verdict Is In

Many kids are moving away from organized sports. With the obesity epidemic in America, this is not a move in the right direction. What are some reasons that you child might not be interested in playing a sport this season?

  1. Too Much Pressure
    Kids like to play with other kids and have fun. But the emphasis on the importance of winning is often paramount to any enjoyment they may get from participating in the sport itself. For parents who live vicariously through their kids, the weight can be crushing.
  2. Negative Feedback
    Every game played is something that your child can be proud of, regardless of whether or not their team wins. Constant negative feedback is not an incentive to keep playing your best – it’s a quick way to inspire stress, shame, and anxiety in your child’s approach to playing sports and staying active.
  3. Exhaustion
    Practices and games can be long and exhausting for children, especially after a long day at school. Running kids into the ground is detrimental to both their minds and their bodies. While it’s important to instill the practice of an active lifestyle in your kids, it’s also important to make sure that your kids live a balanced life.
  4. Lack of Interest
    Not all kids are soccer players or ice skaters or artists. Get to know your child and what sincerely interests them. Figuring out what sports and activities are truly enjoyable for them will help them to become more individualized and happy beings.

How To Help Your Kids Enjoy an Active Lifestyle

Here are some ways to gently coax your kids into lifelong enjoyment of group activities.

  1. Pep Talk
    Kids put a lot of pressure on themselves to perform. Ease their anxiety by encouraging them to always do their best but reminding them that winning isn’t the only thing that matters. Stress that they’re there to have fun and not to take themselves too seriously.
  2. Positive Feedback
    Support your kid whether they win or lose. Cheer for them and be positive about their game performance.
  3. Practice Is Not Bootcamp
    Talk to your child’s coach if you think they’re going overboard. While learning discipline and dedication through playing organized sports is perfectly acceptable, your kids are playing sports to be active and have fun. Your child should not be too tired to function regularly in school, do homework, spend time with family and friends, and do other fun activities. Nor should your child’s coach treat his players like they’re recruits.
  4. Encourage Time Away
    Sports take up a lot of time. Find ways throughout the week for your kids to do other things that they enjoy. The summertime is a particularly opportune time to introduce your kids to new activities that aren’t available during the school year.


Finding the Right Fit

How to help your child enjoy sports

  • For instance, a short, stocky kid may not be ideally suited to basketball, while a tall, lanky kid may not have the easiest time with gymnastics. Children who are overweight or not at an ideal fitness level may find more enjoyment (at least initially) in sports with less running demands — baseball as opposed to soccer, for instance. That said, plenty of short kids love playing basketball, so don’t go overboard with your assumptions.

How to help your child enjoy sports

How to help your child enjoy sports

  • For instance, if your kid is just starting to “dip his toes” into basketball, he or she may find the extensive commitment required to be on a travel team that ventures widely each weekend to be too much. Perhaps a recreational league at your local YMCA or another such option may be a better choice.
  • Likewise, if you know your child is unlikely to enjoy playing for a hard-nosed coach who criticizes regularly, you may want to look into other options. Of course, one of the benefits of sports is learning to deal with adversity, so don’t go too far in trying to shield them from every possible discomfort.

How to help your child enjoy sports

  • If your kid keeps making up excuses why he or she can’t go to practice, never seems able to crack a smile during a game, performs below capabilities when the pressure is on, or begins having seemingly-unrelated difficulties with academics, social interactions, etc., stress may be overwhelming him or her.
  • If you believe stress is a problem, talk to your child about keeping things in perspective. Look into stress management exercises like deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and visualization. Consider whether your child is involved in too many sports, or needs to consider switching sports.

How to help your child enjoy sports

  • If team sports are simply not in the cards for your child, look into sports with more of an individual focus, like tennis or golf. If the competitive aspect is more of a problem, emphasize aerobic exercises like swimming, running, or biking for the health benefits.

How to help your child enjoy sports

Getting kids to love sports is more of a challenge than you think as they get older and the fun-first emphasis starts to dwindle. Keeping them engaged is all about knowing when to encourage and when to lay off.

In the following article, we’re going to look at six things you, as a parent or adult, can do to encourage their continued participation. Not because they have to, but because they want to. Let’s begin!

1. Participate

Sporty kids usually start with sporty parents. That doesn’t mean you have to be an ex-professional ballplayer. It just means you need to sell your love of the game over your abilities.

The way to do this is to participate in it with them. Watch it on television. Play catch in the yard.

When your child does get started on a sport, go to all their games. Cheer them on, and avoid being overly critical.

2. Watch Burnout

A love for sports can quickly fall by the wayside if your child is spending too much time hustling and not enough time enjoying. Watch their schedule to keep it from getting overstocked. If burnout hits, it can negatively affect their love for everything in which they are involved.

3. Encourage Various Sporting Endeavors

Make sure your child stays upbeat if he or she finds they don’t take to a particular sport. Educate them on all the different types, and try to get them involved with a group, club, or team.

If they aren’t that great at it but enjoy it, let them continue until they know when to quit. If they don’t like a sport you wish they did, stop trying to force the issue. You’ll only drive them further away.

4. Allow for Downtime

A child’s love for Sport will come crashing down if they only view it as hard work. You want to encourage your kids to take time away from practice and the repetition it involves to pursue other interests or just crash out on the couch for a few hours and be lazy.

Let them recharge their batteries. It will keep them in the game, so to speak.

5. Celebrate Efforts Over Results

Want to ruin sports for an athletic kid? Just push them to treat sports as a job and obligation instead of a pastime. Experts agree that this tendency of adults to take things too seriously is probably the number one thing driving many away from youth sports.

Avoid the trap of pushing your kids too hard by commenting on their efforts instead of their results. They do not have to win all the time or do everything right. They simply must give it their best shot.

6. Follow a Favorite Team

One final thing you can do to encourage your child’s love of sports is to try raising sports fans. This is easy if you have a professional sports team in your city.

If you don’t, you might consider pulling for a team that’s closer to you regionally or one that has a long-embedded tie to you, like maybe they were the favorite team of a dearly departed family member. Once you’ve picked a team, invest in them.

Take your child to games. Watch them on television. Order an embroidered patch or pennant or piece of clothing that shows support.

Doing such things will give your children a deep sense of pride and tradition in the team. That can be the impetus for their love of sports as a whole.

Kids Love Sports When Adults Let Them

It’s easy to love sports when that’s what you, as a parent, are teaching them to do. That doesn’t happen through heavy-handed pressure. For additional parenting tips, check out more of our blog posts at The Mother Huddle.

Sports at school are a great way to keep kids fit and healthy. But what can you do if your child feels anxious about taking part?

Sports at school are full of all kinds of surprises. Some can be fun and exhilarating and others can be stressful and embarrassing. Navigating a PE lesson can be challenging.

We all want our children to enjoy school and everything it has to offer, including sports lessons. But what do you do if your child is scared of sports? Maybe you’ve noticed that they’re anxious on mornings when they’ve got a sports lesson at school, or maybe they seem stressed because they’ve been doing a certain sport for a few weeks in a row.

It’s not uncommon for kids to feel anxious about doing sports at school. They’re at a tender age when there are all kinds of pressures, but kids are also extremely resilient. As a parent, there are lots of things you can do to help your kids overcome common sports fears and enjoy sport to the full.

1. Pursue positivity

A fear of something, including sport, will also come with a cloud of negativity. You may find that your child is full of self-doubt and often says things like “I can’t do it” or “I’m not good enough”. This kind of negative language manifests itself as stress and nervousness. It’s crucial, if you want your child to overcome their fear, to turn this language around into something positive.

How to help your child enjoy sports

One easy way to help with this is to come up with a short mantra. This can be a small phrase that your child can easily remember when they’re feeling scared. Something like “I am strong” or “I know I can do this”. By repeating this short mantra, they’re beginning to turn the negativity into positivity and this will help to build their confidence.

2. Create an inner calm

Help your child by teaching them how to create their own calmness. Techniques such as visualisation and breath control can be really beneficial here. Visualisation can be practised at home as well as before the sports activity. The key here is to teach your child to visualise themselves doing well and succeeding during sports. By doing this, they’re filling their mind with a positive outcome rather than fixating on the fear.

Breath control is also an effective way of creating a calm atmosphere. Rapid breathing is a physical side-effect of fear, so getting this under control not only helps to decrease the symptoms of fear but it also distracts the mind. By focusing on their breathing, your child is blocking out their surroundings and is taking control of their own actions. This is often a very rewarding exercise and, again, can be practised at home.

3. Enjoy a Relaxed Environment

If your child appears to be finding it difficult to enjoy sports offered at school, or maybe they dislike the competitive element of sports activities, try introducing them to a friendlier and more relaxed environment. Finding a club that takes on a more enjoyment-based approach could be just the right fit for your child.

A youth sports club that offers a mix of different physical activities will bring diversity to your child’s exposure to sports. By introducing them to different activities, this increases their chances of finding a sport that they like and enjoy. A club setting also takes away from the more competitive aspect of sport and reinforces the benefits and fun sport can bring to everyday life.

4. Practice Makes Perfect

It may be the case that your child develops a fear of sport because it may not come naturally to them. Every child is different and has their own strengths and weaknesses. When it comes to activities that are more challenging, it can be difficult to motivate them to have a go. Especially in a sports environment, performing in front of others can cause further stress and nervousness.

How to help your child enjoy sports

As a parent, you can help out by practicing basic sports skills with your child. Turn something that they dislike into a game, or a fun and safe environment. Start with just you and your child in the garden, playing with a football or catching a tennis ball. As they begin to develop their skills and enjoyment, introduce another person, maybe a family member or friend, and expand the group playing the game. This will help your child to become comfortable around people when they are doing more sport-based activities.

5. One-to-One Wonders

Often children worry that they’re not as good as their peers at sport, or they’re overwhelmed by how much activity and people are around them. If this is the case, try offering your child the option of some personal coaching.

For example, swimming is often an activity that many of us are taught from a young age. This typically involves going to a class with children of a similar age and learning in a group setting. This may not be the best fit for your child, so try offering them some private swimming lessons so that they can learn this important life skill in an environment they feel comfortable in.

There’s so much that you can do to support your child if they have a fear of sports. Sometimes a little reassurance and positivity is all they need to feel confident enough to get out there and have a go!

The article was produced in collaboration with Foxhills Club & Resort in Surrey.

Drawing from sport psychology research on parenting, here are five ways you can support your children in sport.

These strategies apply during childhood and adolescence, but are particularly important for children between the ages of 10 and 15.

If you are a sport parent, remember one golden rule: consistency is critical. Be consistent in your behaviours and words. Inconsistency creates confusion.

1. Provide emotional support

This refers to providing unconditional love. It is especially important during challenging or stressful times. You are the number one source of emotional support for your children in sport. They need someone to turn to. Emotional support must be unconditional and not dependent on how well you think your child may be playing or competing.

2. Emphasize effort and personal improvement over outcome

When you put too much emphasis on winning and losing (these are outcomes), your children can experience anxiety and even reduced motivation to stay involved in sport. It is better to focus on effort and personal improvement.

Helping your children understand that you value them trying hard above all else, and reinforcing when they are getting better, is really important, especially when they are young and still learning about how to compete.

3. Foster independence

It is okay to be highly involved in your children’s sport, but the evidence suggests that high involvement must be balanced with providing children with autonomy and independence. You can set boundaries but allow your children some freedom and independence within these boundaries.

For example, a boundary might be telling your child, “You must always be prepared for practices,” and the independence might be, “You are responsible for making sure you have your equipment and water.” As your children demonstrate they can be personally responsible, you can experiment with giving them more freedom.

4. Communicate and share goals

Why does your child play sport? What are their long-term goals for sport? Have you ever asked these questions? If not, you should, because good sport parents communicate with their children and help support their children’s goals for sport.

Some children may want to excel and reach high levels of sport. Others may simply wish to experience the joy of participating without aspirations of reaching a high level.

You should support the goals your children have picked rather than trying to impose your own goals. And remember, your children’s goals may change as they progress through sport. It is important to ‘check-in’ with them as they age to ensure you are providing the necessary support.

5. Behave how children want you to behave before, during, and after competitions.

Several studies have involved asking children what they want from their parents before, during, and after competitions.

Before competitions children want parents to help to help them relax and make sure they arrive on time.

During competitions children want parents to encourage the entire team, maintain control of emotions, stay positive, and focus on effort rather than outcome.

After competitions, children do want positive yet honest feedback, but parents should be careful to read their children’s mood before discussing performances.

Let the coach take care of the technical and tactical advice and focus your feedback on the effort and attitude of your child.

October 19, 2015 by Janis

How to help your child enjoy sportsTo listen to the podcast, click on the above arrow.

Watching your kids suffer through a youth sports injury is hard. And I’m not here to tell you that all injuries can be prevented, but after talking with today’s guest, I’m convinced that some injuries can be prevented and that recovery can be quicker for athletes who keep their bodies in alignment.

Today’s podcast guest is BJ Proffitt of .

BJ Proffitt is a Certified Alignment Specialist by Egoscue University and works with athletes to overcome and avoid pain and injury so they can continue playing the sports they love pain-free. BJ was a Division I athlete and has over 12 years experience working in the medical field. BJ was no stranger to playing hurt during his career, and he wants sports parents to know that by helping kids develop a naturally strong and balanced body, they can enjoy a lifetime of pain-free sports.

How to help your child enjoy sportsLearn more about BJ’s story and how you can help your child with chronic pain at .

How to help your child enjoy sports

Nominate a positive coach, parent, or volunteer in youth sports who’s doing an awesome job! Click here to submit your nomination.

Filed Under: podcast Tagged With: podcast

Email Janis using the Provided Contact Form

Follow JBMThinks on Facebook or Twitter

How to help your child enjoy sports

UHealth partners with Raising Champion Families, for sports medicine and overall health care needs.

How to help your child enjoy sports

  • 247
  • 0

How To Motivate Your Child In Sports

There is no “IF”. I don’t mean to be a jerk but I’m hearing, “I love watching you play IF this is going somewhere.” There should be no struggle at all with good athletes.

Self-motivated athletes are ALWAYS the best athletes! Passion, effort, grit are common words to describe it. As a coaching educator I had one parent ask “then how do I make my kid become self-motivated?” Do you see the absurdity of the question? The answer…

Water the right thing.

If you know anything about gardening you don’t put a firehouse of water on the rose petals. You water the right thing. You cultivate the soil and give it what IT needs instead of fire-hosing the outcome.

You can’t make your kid self-motivated but you can influence their motivation by your passion and flat out love of what their doing for the sheer joy it brings THEM. A book the USOC introduced me to is “Developing Talent In Young People” by Benjamin Bloom and in it they found that 100% of successful young people in sports, math, music, science, etc…had, at an early age, a parent, a teacher or a coach give them (model) a love of the game or a love of learning. It works!

I was a goofy coach. We had a lot of fun. I modeled working hard for what you did. And the kids responded by giving their all because it was fun to do so. And they won A LOT. Over 20 years of coaching the kids I coached won over 90% of their games. AND I didn’t care.

What I cared about was their enjoyment, their development, their learning, their being better than yesterday and their effort in practice. The game was just the “flower” of what they did and what I was able to influence by providing a fertile environment for their growth/success.

With age comes perspective so my reward is not the won/loss record but seeing them as adults with successful careers, raising their own kids who LOVE sports and hearing of things that they battled along the way and gave it their all to overcome. Knowing that many of the kids that I coached at age 5, 6 and 7 played high school sports and some played in college. Most all of them play, or have played some adult rec level because they still love it.

So modeling a love of the game and/or learning is vitally important, but there is no “IF”. I don’t love watching you play because this is going somewhere. I love watching you play because I love seeing YOUR passion, what you learned in practice, what you could do today (in a game) that you have been working so hard in the backyard to figure out how to do, what I saw you try last week but couldn’t do, but today…. Today was AWESOME! It’s got to feel so amazing to have worked so hard to to that. And you did it! Well done! I love watching you play!

First off, when we talk about helping kids become more aggressive in sports, it’s not at all in a manner that’s harmful or directed towards others. The kind of aggression being referred to is exherting more effort towards getting involved in a play.

Can a child learn to be more aggressive in sports? Children can learn to be more aggressive through coaching, skill development, and modeling. Having an aggressive mentality can be ingrained in some kids more than others based on personality, but like most behaviors, it can be learned.

Are your expectations realistic?

The first thing to ask yourself is what is to be gained by pushing your child to assert themselves in the game. As parents, we want what’s best for our kids, but sometimes our best interests don’t align with what our children need from us. For example, pushing our 7-year-old to go after the ball more in a recreational soccer game may be more detrimental, then getting desired results. In this scenario, an emphasis on just enjoying the game, and learning the fundamentals should be what’s encouraged.

For kids that have been playing sports for a few years and are in a more competitive setting, like club sports, then working on how they can be more aggressive is more realistic. Putting too much pressure on your child ruins the fun, which taints kids desire to play the sport.

Do they enjoy the sport?

If your child isn’t diving for every loose ball or attacking every play, have you considered that maybe they just don’t enjoy playing? Having open communication can help gain perspective whether the on-field play has more to do with their attitude towards the game or something else. During these conversations be a good listener instead of providing too much advice.

There could be other mental factors affecting their performance in competition. Some kids can be anxious when it’s time to compete or maybe they’re struggling socially. Check out my related post on Helping Kids Through Performance Anxiety in Sports.

How can we teach kids to be more aggressive during gameplay?

Help them to understand their Role

Your child could be holding back because they don’t know what is expected of them. Sometimes just barking out orders to kids isn’t the clear direction that they need or adults can make assumptions that a child should know what to do after being told once. I’ve learned as a coach to never assume but always work on spelling things out for kids. Having a basic understanding of the sport your child is playing can help you to reiterate some of the basics of the game.

Overcome the Fear of Failure

Another common reason that kids may not be giving their all, is they don’t want to screw up. They may have been ridiculed by a peer or called out by a coach for a negative play, so they’re hesitant to make another mistake. Helping your children understand that it’s ok to make mistakes, that it’s part of the learning process, will encourage your kids to be more willing to push through.

Set Small Goals

The flashy play or how much we score is often what is glorified, but we could be celebrating hustle plays as well. Set goals for your kids for doing those little things that show aggression. It could be as simple as grabbing a couple of rebounds or how many times they kick a soccer ball. If they accomplish their goal celebrate with a reward.

Celebrate what they do well

Sometimes it can be easy to get caught up on what needs improving, but identifying things that your child is succeeding at can help boost their self-esteem. As kids achieve small accomplishments, improved confidence in their ability, can lead to more drive.

Improve Skill Development

Youth could be tentative because they need a little extra practice with developing fundamentals for that sport. Personal coaches can be an option with helping kids to train outside of the team environment that could benefit your child. As your child learns how to play the game and master skills it can lead to more aggressive play. Maybe your kid needs to work on conditioning or improve stamina to help them have the physical ability to play harder.

Find a Good Coach

Sometimes you end up with a coach by default, but if you are paying for a league or club, make sure that you get to know the coach before you pay. Find someone that aligns with the beliefs that you have and demonstrates the ability to teach versus just win at all cost.

How is the child motivated?

We all have different things that motivate us and a child is no different. Your child’s initial reason for participating in sports can tell you a lot about how they’re motivated. If they just want to play for social reasons, they probably don’t care that much about how they perform unless it helps them bond with others. The two main factors to consider for helping a player increase effort would be extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. It’s important to note that both motivators can work together and not just be an either or trait.


An extrinsically motivated child is going to want to work towards earning rewards, trophies, or praise. Kids that are more extrinsically motivated can be more concerned with outcomes.

How Parents can help:
• Create a tangible reward for accomplishments
• Let them know you are proud of them
• Praise them in front of others or on social media


A child that is intrinsically motivated may be driven by bettering themselves or meeting their own personal milestones. If they really enjoy what they’re doing or the sport their playing than they’re more apt to want to develop the skills to excel. Feeling part of a team or the experience is going to be rewarding.

How Parents can help:
• Reinforce how their individual performance is contributing to the good of the team
• Help them identify individual goals
• Respond to their individual behaviors
• Maintain open communication with them on what is enjoyable about the experience

Final Thoughts

Let’s continue to maintain perspective of why our kids are involved in sports in order to put their best interests first. By doing so, parents can encourage kids to give maximum effort in a supportive way, and as needed. There are constructive ways that we can help our kids show more fight during the game without promoting negative behavior, for our own agenda, or being over the top.

Please comment below on anything that you’ve enjoyed