We’ve all seen them. You know the ones I’m talking about, the natural athlete. The one that no matter what sport they decide to try it just seems they were destined to be great. Natural athleticism can lead to great self esteem and a world of opportunities. But what about the other guy? What about the “non-natural”? Just as easily as natural athleticism can lead to a world of opportunities and high self esteem, being clumsy, uncoordinated, and naturally NON-athletic can lead to low self esteem and a very unhealthy lifestyle, both mentally and physically. Here are some suggestions for how to avoid this tragic pitfall and keep your child active, happy, and comfortable with who they are.
Find an individual sport
Team sports are great, but if your child isn’t athletic consider putting them in a sport where they won’t constantly be compared with the star of the team. An individual sport allows a child to progress at their own pace allowing them to set goals, and succeed on their own level instilling a much needed feeling of accomplishment and pride.
Encourage the learning aspect of the sport.
Every sport has a myriad of lessons to be learned. But if your child is focused only on winning, not only will they miss out of the “experience” of the sport, but this can lead to a very negative approach to staying active. Engage your child, ask them what they learned today. Ask them to show you something. Praise them for learning something new, which leads us to our next point.
Show an interest. Participate
No I’m not saying you need to be out in the gym working and sweating alongside your child (though it might not hurt). I’m simply saying get to know your child’s coaches, watch the child during a practice. Sometimes the only thing a child needs to feel successful is a parent’s approval.
Avoid the words winning and losing
Winning and losing have such concrete positive and negative connotations that it’s very tricky to use them in a positive way. Even something as nurturing as “don’t worry, you’ll get them next time!” can put unseen pressure on a child to win. Instead spin it, help them look at each loss as an opportunity to learn, and each victory as an opportunity to help or offer some advice to someone else.
Keeping an non-athletic child active is a difficult task, and finding the right sport for them can be even harder. But look at all the benefits that will come from your hard work:
- Improved Self-esteem
- A sense of self and identity
- The tools to learn how to set goals and accomplish them
- Hard work and discipline
- Exercise and weight loss
- Improved athleticism
These benefits and approaches are some of the many reasons that living a healthy, active lifestyle can lead to a much happier lifestyle as well. Stay strong, stay healthy, stay happy.