Why Don’t Kids Want To Play Sports?

By CoachDeck contributor, Helen Brunt

As we’ve covered before, the benefits of getting young people into sports are manifold. Plenty of parents are lucky. Once they’ve won the initial struggle to drag their child off the sofa and onto the sports field, the child has the time of their life and is eager to go back. For other parents it’s a different story. The same struggle happens over and over again, with the children clearly hating the sport they’re being forced to play. This can be heartbreaking as a parent, and many feel an agonizing struggle between their child’s health and their happiness. Which would be better in the long run – giving your child all the benefits of playing a sport, but sacrificing their short-term happiness? Or letting your child stagnate on the sofa but saving them from misery? In many cases, if you can get to the bottom of precisely why your child is resistant to sports, the whole issue can be avoided. So why do some children hate sports?

They Hate The Sport You’ve Chosen For Them

Kids can be tough to figure out. They go through phases of loving and hating things [1]. As a parent, you are probably by now well aware that what’s top of the charts in your child’s esteem this week will probably be discarded next week – so when it comes to things like hobbies and sports, it’s tempting to make them stick at it in the hope that a passing fad will develop into a genuine passion, despite the fluctuating approval-ratings of said sport along the way. However, some kids just genuinely do not like the sports chosen for them. Forcing them to continue with sports they really do not like is likely to engender a deep-seated hatred of all sports. Instead of forcing perseverance, perhaps make them stick at it for a few weeks. If they still don’t like it, try another sport. There are plenty to choose from, after all [2]! Perhaps team sports aren’t for them, and they’d prefer something more solitary like track or hiking. Perhaps they’re more into contact than batting sports. Give them a chance to discover what they truly want to do.

It Hurts

Exercise hurts. As adults, we’re able to see the long-term benefits of temporary muscle pain. Children are creatures of more immediate concerns. You are well aware that the pain of exercise is only going to do your child good in the long run, and that they’re unlikely to do themselves any serious harm (particularly if you’re well covered for any accidents!). Your child only knows that they feel pain while exercising and they don’t much like it. There are ways in which to make exercise less painful – including warming up properly and using things like heat packs. However, there’s no substitute for simply being fit enough to do a sport without pain. Enjoying the sport is the best way in which to withstand the pain of doing it – but for some the initial pain eliminates the chance of any enjoyment. It may be an idea to either engage in some basic low-level fitness with your child to help them attain a fitness level good enough to reduce their pain, or moving them to a less intensive sport until they feel ready to really go for it.

They’re Being Bullied

Few things bring out the animal in kids so much as sports. If this is channelled correctly then sports can be a great thing. Unfortunately, for many kids playing a sport can become a perfect storm of bullying. Forced to wear unflattering kits in an adrenalinized environment with plenty of pressure piled on turns many kids into altogether too tempting targets. The competitiveness of many team sports can also encourage bullying, as kids which are perceived to be ‘letting the side down’ are castigated. Homophobic, sexualised, and misogynistic bullying is particularly common in some sports environments – even among adults [3]. This can not only seriously reduce participation in sports [4], it can also have long-term psychological consequences which may scar your child for life [5]. If you discover that your child is being bullied in their sport, it is imperative that the problem is solved as quickly as possible, and/or that your child is removed from that environment.

[1] Heather Larson, “Kids’ fads and crazes: ‘But Dad, everybody has one!’”, Parent Map, Apr 2011

[2] Parentmap, “Finding the Right Team Sport for Your Child”

[3] Melissa Davey, “Homophobia in sport: Study reveals abuse still widespread”, The Guardian, Jul 2014

[4] CPSU, “Homophobic Bullying in Youth Sport”

[5] NHS Choices, “Bullying may have worse long-term effects than child abuse”

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