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While you’re still expecting, you often get caught up in the daydream of “What will they be like.” You imagine your child’s favorite ice cream flavor, you consider a potential career, what they will like to read and watch, and spend some happy moments transporting yourself into an imagined future. 

With our kids, we had an ongoing debate as to which sport they might like and whether we should sign them up for several at a time, just to see which they are best at—never did it occur to us that our kids might not be the sporty types and that we would have to make some effort when it came to getting them hooked. Here’s how we did it.

1. Don’t Be a Couch Potato 
Leading by example is that one parenting principle we all wish didn’t exist sometimes. However, it does really work, and it also helps us parents become better humans. 

When it came to sports, we had the advantage of being athletic ourselves. Both of us used to play a lot of sports as kids, and we managed to hold on to some of these interests. I still run, and my husband still enjoys both flag football and the occasional game of basketball. 

When the kids were old enough, we started playing soccer, catch, tag, and every other sporting game we could think of. This has helped make sport a fun part of their daily lives, rather than just another chore. 

2. Let Them Show Interest 
Once you’ve exposed your kids to all kinds of different sports (and hopefully, their school has also played an important role in this process), let them make their own choice. Don’t sign them up for a sport they don’t like, even if they might have the physical aptitude for it. If they have to do something they don’t enjoy, they are not likely to stick with it. 

You can, however, encourage them. Maybe take them to a game or a practice to see how they feel about it. If their answer is no, move on and keep looking. 

3. Equip Them Well 
It also helps if kids have access to the equipment they need. I’m not advocating that you get them every bat, ball, glove, and shoe imaginable—just that you do invest in items for the sport they’ve shown interest in. 

In our case, this was baseball, so we had to find the right baseball bat in the middle of the pandemic. As a complete baseball noob, I had no idea how technical it could get. All I’ll say is, make sure to get your child the right size bat. I made the grave mistake of getting a bat that was too large, and it messed with my son’s swing to no end. 

Having a specific sporting uniform will also help them feel more important and like they are doing something super cool. And it doesn’t even have to be a full-fledged jersey (at least we never went for that). A set of shorts and a t-shirt they only wear to play the sport will do just fine. 

4. Don’t Get Too Competitive 
Naturally, we want our kids to excel at everything they do. However, when it comes to sports, we will need to learn how to deal with losses and poor performance too. 

Never get too competitive, and never discourage your child when they don’t score or have a particularly bad game. Remember that the whole point of sports is getting some physical activity (so desperately needed by our kids) and learning a bit about winning and losing. It’s meant to be a fun and healthy way to spend time. Don’t become one of those soccer parents who care more about winning than children’s wellbeing. 

5. Be Flexible 
Finally, allow your child to change their mind, join several teams at the same time, or take a break from organized sporting activities altogether. They will have varied attention spans at different times, and as they get older, they will also develop different interests.

As long as they get plenty of exercise on a daily basis, they don’t need to join a team at all. You can let them loose in the park or on a sporting field and let them play with their friends. 

Don’t be discouraged if your child is not interested in sports at all, either. Not all of us will be, and it’s perfectly okay to prefer different activities. All you do have to do is encourage physical activity—it doesn’t have to involve a set of rules. 

Getting the kids hooked on sports can be a bit of a challenge, especially when video games are so much fun these days. But with just a little bit of effort, you can nurture a passion and an interest that they will enjoy for years to come.