It’s always fun to see kids excel in life, and this certainly applies to youth sports. Watching kids get the big hit in baseball, run for a touchdown in football, or score the winning shot in basketball are examples of kids succeeding in sports, and we would expect that those very same kids take pride and greatly enjoy their success, right? Put another way, kids who are really good at sports must love playing sports, right? Sadly, this is not always the case, as there are countless kids right now who are athletically talented, yet really don’t care to play sports. What all of this means is that we, as parents and coaches, should never assume that if a kid is a good athlete, he or she must really love playing sports. Instead, make it a point to accept that some kids with natural talent for something (i.e. sports, music, art) may not love — or even like — doing that activity.
Talent and interest are two completely different things…
While it’s easy to assume that people talented at performing a task must also love doing the task, it is important that we refrain from making this kind of automatic judgment. In fact, you probably have things you are good at doing that you don’t like (as well as things you’re not good at that you do like). The point is that our interests and talents should each be looked at independent of one another, rather than all lumped together and evaluated by means of whether someone is proficient at a task or not. Furthermore, we should especially apply this way of thinking toward children for several important reasons:
- Assuming athletically-talented kids like sports (when they don’t) increases the risk for burnout, injury, and poor coping mechanisms related to the stress they experience.
- Forcing a kid to play a sport he/she doesn’t like will inevitably prevent that kid from spending time with other life endeavors he/she does enjoy.
- Continuing to expect a kid to play a sport he/she doesn’t like will almost certainly take a toll on the parent-child relationship, and potentially create long-term relationship problems
A better approach
Rather than pushing a kid to play sports he or she doesn’t want to play, a better approach might include open discussion, respect for your child’s ideas and wishes, and supporting decisions — even when they do not include sport participation. Try and use open-ended questions and active listening whenever possible — this means opening up the subject of sport participation in a fair and impartial way, and respectfully asking for clarity when responses are unclear. It’s also important to create an accepting climate based on unconditional positive love and regard, allowing your child to think freely and speak about how he or she feels without judgement or penalty. On the other hand, ignoring these tips and instead pushing, forcing, criticizing, and badgering your child to play sports when he or she would rather not will almost always lead to bigger future problems.
When you see your child showing great talent for a particular sport, it’s easy to see why you might assume that he/she loves playing that sport. While your child might really enjoy the sport, it’s also possible that he/she just happens to be good at the sport but would rather be doing many other things instead. Remember, some kids are good at sports simply because of early maturation and being physically bigger than the other kids, not because they like sports — the good news is having loving, respectful conversations at home will reveal your child’s true interests and motivations.