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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

We all know this one parent who forced their child to participate in a certain sport just because the parent him- or herself excelled in this sport when they were younger. Think about this parent you know who falls into this category. Is their child happy with the sport? Is the child dedicated to it? Does the child even care for it?

Often times, the child is usually reluctant to attend practice because his/her heart simply isn’t in the sport. Because the parent constantly pressures their child to participate in a certain sport, the child is likely to be turned off sports for life.

Don’t be that parent. Just because you were a basketball star in high school doesn’t mean your child has to be one, too. Every person is different, and, as a parent, it’s your job to encourage your child to find a sport s/he enjoys.

It’s important to help your child pursue the right sport for himself/herself. When your child becomes passionate about a sport, then s/he will be likely to stay fit and active for a long time. Your child will also develop important life skills like teamwork, commitment, and goal setting. If your child isn’t passionate about the sport s/he’s part of, then s/he won’t learn any of these things. Instead, s/he would just feel detached and unmotivated.

If you’re ready to let your child explore sports and decide on which one s/he wants to pursue, take a look at how you can help your child choose a sport the right way.

Expose your child to a variety of sports.

This doesn’t mean signing your child up for every sport you can find around town. You need to be a lot more passive than that. Simply switch on the TV every once in a while and leave a game, match, or tournament on for your child to watch. Don’t just do this with baseball, football, and hockey. Catch a volleyball game, tennis match, bicycle race, swim meet, or any other type of sport you can find on ESPN. You can also take your child to watch a local sports game to see if it piques his/her interest. Try to keep your personal preferences to yourself. You may think tennis is the most boring sport in the world, but your child might not agree. If you constantly rag on a certain sport, your child might feel discouraged from pursuing it even if s/he’s very interested in it.

Be realistic with your child.

Once your child finally decides on a sport s/he wants to explore and pursue, you need to remember to be realistic. Everyone has to start somewhere, so your child won’t be great at first. Allow him/her some room to learn. Instead of enrolling your child in a competing swim team, first have him/her join a beginner swim team to learn all the basics of competitive swimming and perfect his/her form. Take baby steps, and encourage your child to do his/her best.

You also need to consider your child’s body type and abilities. For example, if your child has severe balance issues, s/he might take a while to excel in gymnastics. Don’t tell your child that s/he can’t be a linebacker just because s/he’s small and skinny. Let your child give it a shot.

Sports to consider

If your child is introverted, you want to consider encouraging him/her to pursue a one-on-one or small group sport, such as ice skating, tennis, or gymnastics.

There are also many team sports to consider, such as football, soccer, baseball, softball, water polo, hockey, volleyball, and basketball. Take a look at your child’s personality and try to determine which type of sport s/he would like to partake in. Maybe sit down with your child and discuss possible sports for him/her to explore.

If your child tries out a sport and decides s/he doesn’t like it, don’t lose your patience. Instead, let your child explore some more until s/he finds the right sport for him/her.

This is an article by Anita, writer for Higher Click and Macy’s. She loves to cook, blog and give (hopefully) useful advice. As far as sports go, she sticks with her favorite NFL apparel and watches it on telly, but she is always happy to go for a long walk or practice yoga.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to encourage their children to play sports.