Playing sports can be a healthy part of an active childhood, but it’s not essential for your child to like sports. Many children have positive, happy and active childhoods without joining a team or participating in an organized team sport for kids. 

If you’ve tried to get your child interested in sports with no success, don’t sweat it. Instead, focus on the activities your child does enjoy and help them explore their interests with our suggestions for fun ways for kids to stay active. 

Why Doesn’t My Child Like Sports? 

There are many good reasons that a kid might be confused or intimidated by trying to pick up a new sport. Sometimes, it only takes more practice for a child to get comfortable with a new game or sport. But if the issue runs deeper, here are a few reasons why your child might be hesitating to participate: 

A bad sports experience 

If your child was on a team once and didn’t have fun, they might be reluctant to join another sport and try again. A bad team sports experience can occur for a variety of reasons:

  • The team was too focused on winning and didn’t emphasize fun
  • A teammate or coach yelled or got upset about a loss or mistake
  • There was too much pressure to be great at the sport or better than the competition
  • The child wasn’t good at the sport or didn’t learn quickly 

It’s important to make sure your child plays on a team with a culture that accepts mistakes. If your child’s coach or teammates are perfectionists, it might make it tougher for your child to learn sport. Encourage your child to communicate with respect and understanding, and keep an eye on team practices and games to make sure their teammates are doing the same. 

If your child has already had a bad experience with team sports, it can be helpful to try out a new team, a new sport or a new league. Look for leagues and programs that emphasize fun and skill building over competition – There are even some team sports leagues that don’t keep score. 

How Can I Help My Child Pick the Right Sport? 

We tend to think of the major popular team sports as the only options – Football, basketball, baseball and soccer. But there are dozens of other team sports and activities for kids to get involved in, make friends, stay active and have fun. Has your child considered gymnastics, cheerleading, volleyball or martial arts? Any one of these sports can make a great hobby and be a fun sport for kids. 

Each sport requires a different set of skills, so it can helpful for children to try several different sports and find one that suites them. According to Dr. Brooke Pengel, sports medicine specialist at Rocky Mountain Pediatric Orthopedics, “trying a variety of sports, instead of focusing on a single sport, has been shown to protect from injury and promote a life-long love of sport.” If a child wants to learn more about several sports before choosing the ones they like, you might see if your kids want to participate in sports camps or programs that introduce kids to new sports. These may be better than just joining a team that starts playing games right away.  

Maybe you’ve discovered that your child enjoys sports, but doesn’t like playing on a team. That’s okay too – There are tons of individual sports your child can play individually or just for fun. These sports include swimming, biking, running or cross-country, wrestling, tennis, golf, martial arts, skateboarding or in-line skating. 

Why Are Sports Important? 

Your child might be wondering why it’s important to you that they try different sports and stay active. There's a good reason: playing sports is a great form of exercise and exercise keeps the body healthy. “Learning how to run, jump and climb are fundamental movement patterns that should be learned at a young age to promote confidence in taking on new physical challenges,” says Dr. Brooke Pengel.   

Playing sports can also give kids a group of friends with common interests, an understanding of sportsmanship and something new and interesting to do. The most important thing is to keep your kids active, but if they don’t enjoy a particular sport, no sweat – There are many more team or individual sports and games for them to try.