What is she good at? What does she like?
The next step is to think about her strengths and her temperament. Can she handle multiple practices a week? Does she have a competitive drive? Is she a team player, or does she like doing things on her own?
No matter her personality, there are many options.
“Encourage your child to try a few different sports so they can get an idea of what they are good at and what they are interested in,” Shu says.
If she doesn’t have the best hand-eye coordination, she might want to try dance or martial arts instead of softball or tennis. If she’s not crazy about competition or keeping score, individual efforts like running, swimming, or tennis may be a better fit than soccer or lacrosse.
And don’t just depend on your own ideas. Ask your child what she likes and how she thinks she’s doing in an activity. “Children are eventually going to be drawn to the sports that they feel that they are ‘good’ at,” Wilber says.
Know when to stop.
But what if your child simply refuses to keep playing?
Wilber says it’s important to know whether your child hates being active, doesn’t like that sport in particular, or if there are other social problems on the team, like bullying, that may be causing the issue.
If you’ve considered all of those things, you have to decide if it’s best to convince her to keep going or to let her move on to something else.
“There is a fine line between supporting them in a sport and forcing them to do something that they are not enjoying,” Wilber says.
The most important thing is to help your child find a way to be active that she likes and wants to stick with. That will make her more likely to choose to be active, even into adulthood.
If the traditional team sports don’t interest your child, there are other options.
“Team sports can be very structured, which may not appeal to some children,” Wilber says. “Try the local YMCA. They provide many activities, such as swimming, gymnastics, golf lessons, and tennis, which may be more appealing.”
And don’t be surprised if your child wants to switch sports a few times at the beginning. It may take some time for her to find the right fit.
“Pick two or three sports and give your child a chance to experience them for at least a season or two before giving up,” Shu says.
But, she warns, do be careful.
“You may get stuck with a lot of expensive equipment that may never get used again.”
The bottom line, says Wilber:
“I don't think that every child should have to play a sport, but I do feel that they should all have a lot of opportunities to try sports.”