By Raising Children Network
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Boy enjoying kicking a ball with dad
Some children don’t like sport, and that’s OK. Sometimes children need support to deal with their worries about sport and learn they can enjoy sport. Here are some common reasons why children don’t like sport and what you can do to help.

Skill development

Sometimes children don’t have all the physical skills they need for some sports. They might not be able to run, jump, catch or throw as well as other children.

If this sounds like your child, you could help your child practise at home or at the park or with family and friends. Try setting small, reachable targets like ‘doing two good passes’, ‘running to catch up with another player’, or ‘dancing for three kicks longer’. This can help your child see and enjoy progress, and improve skills and confidence too.

‘I’m not good enough to play’

Sometimes children feel that they must be very good at sports to join in, and they’re worried that they’re not good enough.

If you think your child does have the skills to play a particular sport, you could encourage him to have a go at the sport in an informal way, and invite friends to try with him.

If you think a particular sport is beyond your child’s ability just now, you could encourage her to try out other sports or activities she might be interested in – for example, bike riding, swimming, dancing, cricket or soccer.

Overcompetitive environment

A strong competitive environment or pressure to perform could put your child off.

You can talk with your child’s teacher or coach about this, or look for clubs or activities that are less competitive and a better fit for your child.

Children deal better with competition as they get older. It might be best to wait until your child shows an interest in playing a competitive sport.

Fear of failing

Some children might feel scared of things they see as failure – like not winning.

You can help by sending your child the message that sport is about having fun, being active, trying hard, being a good sport and encouraging others. And you can do this in simple ways – for example, ask your child whether he enjoyed the game, rather than whether he won. And give him lots of praise when you see him being a good sport.

In the end, your child’s effort is the only thing that’s completely within her control. The effort, not the result of the match, is what makes it a success or failure. If your child gets to the end of a game and has tried her very best, she has been successful.

Wrong sport

Some sports just aren’t right for some children. Some like organised sports, and others don’t. Some like team sports, and others like individual sports.

You can help your child find the right activity by encouraging him to try a range of different sports and games.

Feeling self-conscious

Children can feel out of place if they’re bigger or smaller than other children, or if they’re less muscular, less skilled or less energetic.

If your child feels like this, it might help to let her know that children of all shapes and sizes can enjoy sport. It might also help to show her examples of people with her body type who enjoy sport – especially other children.

Most importantly, you can help by finding and building a supportive and safe environment that welcomes your child’s efforts.

Health problems

Health problems like asthma or diabetes might mean your child isn’t confident about participating in sport.

The first step is to find out from health professionals how much activity and what type is safe and healthy for your child.

In many cases there’s no need for your child to avoid activity altogether. Activity can even improve the symptoms of some conditions.

Other options for physical activity

If your child really doesn’t want to do organised sport, there are plenty of other fun activities that can keep him physically active.

A great option is to just encourage free play – for example, shooting goals, bike riding, dancing and using playgrounds. The important thing is that your child can be active with friends and have fun.

You could also consider other physical activities like:

  • skateboarding, scooting, riding or dancing
  • dance, martial arts, drama or yoga classes
  • bushwalking or suburban walking trails – this can interest children who are interested in nature.
  • Last updated or reviewed 29-02-2016