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shaka999
shaka999 asks:
Q:

What to do about a child who says he wants to stay in sports but doesn't take them seriously?

We have a 6 year old boy who we are deperately trying to get interested in some type of physical activity.  We've tried teeball, soccer, karate, tennis, etc.  He just doesn't seem interested.  He will stick with something for a while but we can't get him to apply himself or pay attention.

Our latest delimina is with soccer. Our boy isn't nearly as coordinated or fast as many others.   He is a great, and very bright, kid but really just likes to mess around rather than do anything structured.  We've had him playing soccer since he was four.  Up till now it hasn't been a problem as many kids were in the same boat.

The problem is the teams are getting more serious now.  Practices are starting to try and really teach the game and skills but he just isn't into it. In the games he often is watching what is happening off the field instead of on.  Many times he also distracts other kids from paying attention to the game.  

When asked he always says he wants to keep playing but half the time we have to fight with him to get him to practice.  We've tried to tell him that if he doesn't pay attention and show some desire to play then he isn't going to be able to sign up next season.  He still says he wants to.

So, what do we do.  I don't care about him being any great player but how do I motivate him to pay attention and get excited about the game.  Should we just take a break from soccer and try something less structured?  I guess I'm most worried about his self-esteem because I can already see other kids ignoring him because he isn't very good and I'm also worried about him distracting others from what they should be doing.  I don't want him to be the kid that nobody wants on their team.

I hope I don't come across as some sports crazed parent.  I'm far from it.   I'm just looking for something that my boy will like that will keep him active and happy.
In Topics: Sports and athletics
> 60 days ago

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Expert

lkauffman
Oct 5, 2007
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What the Expert Says:

Hi Brad,

It sounds like you are a very perceptive and thoughtful parent. Your son is lucky to have you in his corner! It is a very important and worthwhile goal to inspire and engage your son in physical activity to keep him active and moving. But, how to best do that when your son is not "taking" to any one sport in particular? I personally believe that there is no one right answer to this question, but I do have a couple of thoughts.

First, your son has expressed an interest in continuing to play soccer, so it seems like it is worthwhile to see this through a bit. Perhaps his gross motor skills (large muscles) are slightly underdeveloped? His muscle weakness might prohibit him from successfully engaging in soccer and other sports the way he would like to. He might benefit from some activities around the house to strengthen some of his large muscles. See the following article for additional information on gross motor skills and activities: http://ehlt.flinders.edu.au/education/DLiT/2000/FINAL/grossmotors.htm

Second, your son is still very young, so it may take some time for him to find sports and physical activities that he really enjoys and can get excited about. When I was young, my mother enrolled me in ballet and gymnastics for years (interesting, but I was bored and didn't want to go to class), but when I was about nine, she enrolled me in soccer and WHAM, I was hooked! I play on several soccer games to this day! So, there is a chance that he may just need a little time to play and daydream before a sport grabs him. Keep your expectations low and try and match him with leagues and coaches that have a "for fun" attitude.

Regarding the issue of sibling rivalry, I think it will be useful to repeat over and over again, "Your mom and I love you both. We appreciate your differences and value the things that come easy to you (like...X, Y, and Z) and the things that come easy to your brother equally."

Good luck!

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Additional Answers (4)

cocomom
cocomom writes:
I'm a firm believer in not pressuring your children - although I must admit I find it hard myself to stick to that rule with all the focus on competition these days. Some of my son's classmates (he's 7 and &nbsp;in 2nd grade) are not very athletically inclined, or interested. A few, however, have liked fencing or swimming. Also Aikido is a less competitive it seems. What about tennis, golf, roller skating, ice skating or rock climbing? (there are local gyms where you can rock climb). Sometimes individual sports, rather than team sports work better for kids. Who knows what will pique his interest?. As to your comment that he says he wants to keep playing but then it's a fight to get him there, I'd say stop the sport. He's saying one thing with his words, but obviously another with his actions. And then finally, I try to remind myself in moments of frustration or doubt: &quot;this too shall pass. he'll turn out just fine (:&quot;<br />
> 60 days ago

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michaelbartone
michaelbart... writes:
Wow, after reading this I began to think of myself and how much it reminded me of my childhood. Although my parents signed me up for soccer and I played for 9 years, i was not into it. I did play baseball for one year, and I hated it. My parents did not make me play it again. Then from 3rd-6th grade I played basketball. Again, I was not into playing it. I wasn't even into playing soccer but I did to make my parents happy. They weren't sports fanatics either, but my fater was very athletic in school I felt like I needed to be like him.<br />
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Once I realized and was able to admit sports weren't for me, I found working out at the gym to be very fulfilling. Again, as a child I knew I was not into team sports. I would just stare and not be interested. My parents wanted me to get physical, and the only way they knew in the 80's was through team sports. Maybe the gym would be a good outlet to do as a family affair. I was olways more book smart and into the academic aspect of life. I don't know, just a thought. I know you aren't pressuring him, so keep it up. He might want to keep signing up because he knows it is expected, a societal expectation. Peace<br />
> 60 days ago

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vdancer
vdancer writes:
Brad, your situation is quite understandable. &nbsp;Your son, and other children at that age, are not developmentally ready for sports! &nbsp;It's that simple. &nbsp;He's telling you loud and clear that he's not ready. &nbsp;He and his peers are still in the normal, healthy phase where free play should occupy his free time, not organized sports. &nbsp;Through age nine, children are still developing their brains through lots of varied movements they get through free play. &nbsp;Running, jumping, crawling, climbing, rolling, swinging, balancing on logs, digging, building, day-dreaming, and listening to the wind are still helping to organize the child's senses and information about the world. &nbsp;Once that is accomplished, they are interested and able to begin practicing specific and repetitive movements towards mastery of a sport, or musical instrument, or academics.<br />
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OK, I understand the appeal of an organized after-school activity. &nbsp;How about organizing a play afternoon at the park or field? &nbsp;Bring along a large ball and a medium ball, and see what the kids invent themselves. &nbsp;If they are interested in ball games, they will invent one with their own rules! &nbsp;This builds social skills as well as motor ones, toward future success in athletics or anything else.<br />
<br />
Did you know that the main reason children under the age of 12 play sports? &nbsp;Because it's important to one or both parents. &nbsp;And, did you know that 75% of all children who start athletics have quit for good by the age of 12? &nbsp;That's because they began not out of their own motivation, but for other reasons...mainly parents. &nbsp;Athletes who begin later, towards the age of 12, stay in the sport longer and play with fewer injuries because they began at the right time.<br />
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Of course this is counter-culture in our sports-obsessed land, but think about it.<br />
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Sports are for later, for meeting the increasing physical and emotional challenges of impending puberty, adolescence and adulthood. &nbsp;I know it's hard to wait. &nbsp;I was there myself with a rambunctious 5-year old who had tantrums and kicked the walls. &nbsp;I thought soccer was the answer, but a kindly teacher set me straight and redirected me and his energy into more appropriate activities. &nbsp;For the next few years, my son swam, rode horses, rode a scooter ang then a bike, played lots and lots of catch with his dad (highly recommended!), played backyard volleyball with beach balls, and just messed around with free play with neighbor kids and arranged playdates with classmates. &nbsp;It took extra effort, but it paid off. &nbsp;He played baseball all-stars all the way through high school, and as an adult, still plays on masters teams when he has a chance.<br />
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All children need unstructured time to grow, without media involvement or adult direction. &nbsp;Its a great gift we can give them, if we only can.<br />
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Good luck!<br />
> 60 days ago

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noelbyrne
noelbyrne writes:
it is an interesting problem i teach a karate class and find most kids have a friend with them you dont say if he has a friend with him.some kids find sport for social and friendship resons soccor and other team sports can be very competive to get a place on the team and a lot of kids dont make the mark in my class the only compitation is with the kid him self and most delvlop at their own PACE if he does not make the team he wont want to go for long just keep encurraging him and find some thing he can do with his best friend of bring him back to a sport that he can progress at his own pace fun in sports is best skill training will come later remenber he is only six

regards noel
> 60 days ago

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