Find the Right Sport for a Child Who Isn't Athletic

While many awkward kids steer away from youth sports, they secretly want to play. They see sports as a way to fit in, and they often feel excluded because they don't participate.

By Nicole B. Sperekas, Ph.D.

All of my family members are natural athletes. Except David. He's my cousin. Throughout childhood, he teetered and tottered - and fell. We used to joke that he could trip on air. Of course, he never took up a sport as a youngster and we were very happy about that. We hoped that by the time he was a teenager he would be less gawky.

He wasn't. In fact, he was worse.

When David was 15, he came home one day and announced that he wanted to take skiing lessons with his youth group. His mother, with great trepidation, gave him permission.

The kids would go to the mountains for 10 Sundays, take lessons in the morning, have lunch together, and then ski on their own for a couple of hours before returning home.

That first Sunday, his mother sat by the phone all day, sure that she would receive a dreaded phone call telling her that David had broken his leg. The call never came. Upon his return, she asked him, "How did it go?

"It was a blast!" David said.

Over the next few years, he became a very good skier; he even made Ski Patrol. Always a klutz who would fall off a stepladder or trip over a hose and sprain an ankle, David has never so much as twisted a knee when skiing. Now in his 40s, he skis often with his own children.

David's story taught me a lesson - even uncoordinated kids with no natural athletic ability can learn to play and enjoy a sport - if it's the right one for them! I learned that lesson again as a swim team coach when I saw children who were non-athletic on land, swim like fish in the water.

Over the years, I've also come to realize that while many awkward kids steer away from sports, in fact, they secretly want to play. They see sports as a way to fit in, and they often feel excluded because they don't participate. Yet they refrain from taking up a sport because they don't want to embarrass themselves in front of more athletic siblings and friends.

If you have a child like David - rest assured there really is a sport for him. The trick is to find one that gives him the best chance for success without too much initial frustration. Success here means learning a sport, being with other kids, getting exercise and having fun.

Articles Tools