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There are lots of great activities children can do if they don’t like sports. Here are some common reasons for children not liking sport, and ways you can help.

Undeveloped skills

Some children don’t have the basic physical skills for some sports. Their lack of mastery might make them feel like they’re failing. If this is the case with your child, you can help your child practise and perfect new skills at home where others can’t see or judge. Your child can also practise with siblings if that feels more comfortable.

Over-competitive environment

The coach, teacher or other players might be too competitive for some children. An aggressive environment or pressure to perform could put your child off. Talk with your child’s teacher or coach about the approach being used, or look for less competitive clubs or activities.

Kids do 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 failure

Some children might feel scared of failure. You can help by reassuring your child that sport is about having fun and being active. Focus on how hard your child is trying, and teach your child to identify strengths. Practising undeveloped skills can also help, because it will boost your child’s confidence.

Wrong sport

Some sports just aren’t right for some children. Not all kids have the hand–eye coordination for tennis, for instance. Some like organised sports while others don’t. You can help your child find the right activity by encouraging your child to try a range of different sports and games.

Feeling self-conscious

Body type or ability to cope with the demands of physical activity can sometimes affect a child. If children are bigger or smaller than other kids, or not as muscular, or less energetic than other kids, they can feel out of place. If your child has a health problem such as asthma, or is overweight, your child might even feel frightened of participating.

If your child does have a health problem:

  • Find out how much activity children with the condition can manage – in many cases avoiding activity is unnecessary.
  • Think about your child’s abilities and help find an activity that suits better. For instance, if asthma is the problem, your child might be happier playing a sport that has short bursts of activity like cricket or ten-pin bowling. Or martial arts – with its emphasis on using your body, whatever type it is, to advantage – might appeal.

Other options for exercise and physical activity

If your child really is reluctant to take part in organised sporting activities, it might just be that free play – like shooting goals, bike-riding or dancing – is a better fit.

You could also look for other activities that require additional involvement beyond the exercise. For example:

  • Horse riding isn’t just about the physical riding – there are horses to take care of and there’s countryside to explore.
  • Skateboarding, dancing, hiking, martial arts and yoga all have interesting aspects beyond the activity itself.

Many interests and hobbies lead to involvement with a subculture and encounters with nature, or are based on a wider philosophy.

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  • Last Updated 17-12-2009
  • Last Reviewed 12-10-2009
  • Hands, B., Parker, H., & Larkin, D. (2002). Constraints and enablers of physical health in children: What do we really know about the constraints and enablers of physical activity in young children? In: ACHPER 23rd national/international biennial conference proceedings: interactive health and physical education conference, 2002

    Nemours Foundation (2005). A parent’s guide to fitness for children who hate sport. Retrieved 21 December, 2005 from http://kidshealth.org/parent/nutrition_fit/fitness/hate_sports.html