There’s no doubt, team sports offer an array of benefits to kids. Team sports provide opportunities for kids to develop friendships, work as a team, problem solve, learn good sportsmanship and much more. But what if your kid just isn’t interested in being on a team?
Not everyone loves team sports. Many kids, particularly those who are introverted or shy, lack interest in or struggle with team sports. When kids aren’t into team sports, parents often get caught up in an endless battle — with their kids kicking and screaming all the way to every practice and game.
So the question is, should parents push their unenthusiastic kids into team sports if their kids are adamant they want no part of it? Encouraging kids to participate in some form of extracurricular activity is undoubtedly a good idea. Such activities can provide kids with valuable learning opportunities while also keeping them fit. But if your child is introverted, social and group experiences can be particularly stressful and mentally exhausting.
What can you do to help your child get in some fitness and develop motor skills, while still allowing your child to be true to himself or herself? There are plenty of sports and physical activities that aren’t as mentally draining for introverts, yet provide participants with plenty of benefits.
Martial arts. This sport is divided into the categories of wrestling, striking, grappling and weaponry. Many martial arts styles use a combination of these categories, so it’s a good idea to look into several disciplines. Then let your child help decide which style to try. Some of the most popular forms include judo, Tai-Chi, karate, kickboxing, wrestling, Taekwondo, Aikido and Jiu-Jitsu. Through martial arts, in addition to learning self-defense, kids learn self-discipline and fine-tune their motor skills.
Gymnastics. Gymnastics improves strength, flexibility, balance, and cognitive functioning, among other benefits. The most popular form of gymnastics is artistic, which includes floor exercise, balance beam, vault, uneven bars, still rings and parallel bars. There’s also rhythmic, which combines dance and gymnastics moves to music. Aerobic gymnastics is yet another form and crosses traditional aerobics with gymnastics moves, also set to music.
Ice Skating. This sport provides a cardiovascular workout while improving flexibility, balance and endurance. It’s also a great way to develop leg muscles. Speed skating is one form of ice skating your child can learn. But there’s also figure skating, which includes single skating, pair skating, ice dancing and synchronized skating.
Skateboarding. Skateboarding offers many benefits including overall fitness, endurance, precision, and as many a skateboarder will attest, increased pain tolerance. This solo sport has numerous forms including — but not limited to — slalom, freestyle, street, off-road, vert and park.
Bicycling. This is an excellent form of exercise that improves strength, coordination and flexibility. There are several forms of bicycling that might appeal to your child, such as distance endurance cycling, mountain biking and stunt riding.
Archery. Although archery might appear to be a passive sport, it offers several physical and mental benefits including improved balance, coordination, upper body strength and focus. Also, during competitions archers get plenty of exercise, as they often walk up to five miles.
Dance. Many people argue that dance isn’t a sport. Nonetheless, it offers many of the same benefits as sports. Dancing builds self-confidence, provides exercise and develops balance, stamina and strength. Forms of dance include tap, ballet, jazz, modern, hip-hop, swing, Latin, contra, Irish step dance and more.
Swimming and diving. Swimming builds strength and endurance while improving cardiovascular fitness. Diving improves agility, strengthens the upper body — particularly the arms — and improves mental focus.
Running. As straightforward as running may sound, there are several forms from which your child can choose. There’s adventure running, cross-country, road, mountain, track and field, races and marathon. Whatever the form, it’s an excellent cardiovascular workout. Running also builds endurance, releases stress and is a powerful antidepressant.
Water skiing. Water skiing, as well as other water sports such as wakeboarding and windsurfing, increases endurance while strengthening core muscles and improving balance.
Climbing. If you have a tree climber on your hands, rock climbing might be the perfect sport. Whether practiced indoors or outdoors, climbing is an excellent cardiovascular workout, toning and strengthening muscles and improving mental focus.
Inline skating. Although rollerblading first gained popularity with hockey, it’s been enjoyed equally as a leisure or solo sport. Inline skating offers nearly as much cardio and muscle building benefits as running, but without as much impact on the joints.
Kimberly Blaker is a freelance writer and the author of a kid’s STEM book, Horoscopes: Reality or Trickery?