Should parents force sports on a reluctant child?

jonbuzby@hotmail.comFebruary 19, 2012 

The weather has teased you with hints of spring. Pitchers and catchers have reported to Florida and Arizona. The sporting goods stores are stocked with baseball gloves, tennis rackets and lacrosse sticks.

The time has finally come.

You've been waiting since the day your child was born to sign him up for T-ball and it's finally time. The only problem is he doesn't want to play.

He doesn't want to play soccer or lacrosse or try karate, either. He would rather use the racket you bought him to try to hit tennis balls over the house (I'd hide your golf balls). He only twirls the lacrosse stick you had him fitted for at age 3 to scoop debris out of the street gutters when it rains. And the baseball bat you bought him the day he was born is only swung at lightning bugs during dusk in the summer.

Should you make him play?

I think it's very important for kids to be given opportunities to try different activities and sometimes that means forcing them to give it a shot. I'm not a proponent of making a child play a sport season after season if he doesn't want to, but I am OK with insisting he try it at least once (or any activity, for that matter).

In addition to developing motor skills and enhancing physical fitness, playing on youth sports teams builds social skills, often among a new and different group of friends. Kids need to learn how to get along with children from every background and of all abilities and attitudes, and sometimes they can't get that experience anywhere else.

And it does not have to be baseball. One suggestion would be to tell your child that you want him involved in some sort of sports activity this spring, but he or she can pick what it will be. Nowadays -- unlike when I was a kid -- you can play just about any sport in the spring.

One of the best sports for kids to see immediate success in is soccer. So if you are worried about your unathletic child keeping up with other kids, soccer might be the best sport to try. At 5 years old, basically if you can kick a ball (doesn't matter how far or accurate), follow a pack of kids to that ball and enjoy the postgame snack, you can feel successful.

Now what do you do if you are three weeks into the sport -- and more than a few bucks in registration fees and equipment -- and your child decides he hates it?

Email me your thoughts and look for mine in a couple of weeks when some of you might be faced with that dilemma.

Reach Jon Buzby at jonbuzby@hotmail.com and follow him on Twitter @JonBuzby.

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