Playing sports was a big part of many of our childhoods. And it’s for good reason; learning and practicing a sport can build self-esteem and confidence for kids, and team sports can build important social connections. Playing sports also helps kids stay physically active, which has enormous benefits for their mental health.
The same goes for kids with ADHD. If your child faces ADHD symptoms, playing sports can be an excellent way to help them burn off extra energy, make social connections, and build their self-esteem.
However, kids with ADHD may have unique challenges that need to be considered when enrolling them in a sports program, especially team sports.
For example, kids with ADHD could have a hard time paying attention to instructions, which could cause them to miss important details of the game. Kids and teens with ADHD could also have a harder time with emotion regulation, which means they could have angry or emotional outbursts when they lose a game.
But that doesn’t mean that your child with ADHD needs to stay away from sports — quite the opposite! Participating in sports can be very beneficial for kids and teens with ADHD. In this article, I’ll talk about 7 different sports that could be good choices for your child with ADHD, and give you tips for helping your child succeed in sports.
Which are better: Team sports or individual sports?
The question of team sports vs. individual sports doesn’t have a “correct” answer — this is something that’s highly dependent upon who your child is as a person. No two people with ADHD are alike, although they do share symptoms and challenges. This means that some kids and teens with ADHD may prefer team sports, while others prefer individual sports.
Individual sports may be a better fit for many kids with ADHD. This is mostly due to the fact that participating in an individual sport can give your child the personalized instruction and guidance they may need to master a sport. Receiving this guidance, and slowly improving at the sport, could give your child a sense of mastery and confidence.
But one study found that kids with ADHD are twice as likely to be drawn to competitive team sports than to individual sports. Kids with ADHD also tend to gravitate toward higher-risk contact sports like football, perhaps because of increased impulsivity and risk-taking behaviors.
Your child may prefer individual sports to be able to master skills on their own time. But they could also be motivated to compete in team sports as well. Be collaborative, and give your child options. They’re more likely to stick to a sport that they enjoy rather than one they’ve been pressured into.
Recommend reading: The Best Games for Kids with ADHD
Best sports for kids with ADHD
We’ve gathered several of the best sports for your child with ADHD. It’s important to choose the right sport. You can motivate your ADHD child to play sports by taking into account what their interests are. Take their unique personality traits and temperament into account, instead of just focusing on their ADHD symptoms.
Swimming can be a great sport choice for kids with ADHD because it provides the perfect balance between individual and team sports. Kids can get individual guidance from their coach, while still competing as part of a swim team. Olympian swimmer Michael Phelps has even said that swimming helped him manage his own ADHD symptoms!
There is research evidence that martial arts, especially taekwondo, can improve executive functioning skills. These skills are important for tasks like planning, goal-setting, and self-regulation, but ADHD often causes impairments in these areas. By participating in martial arts, kids with ADHD may be able to counteract some of these impairments.
Like swimming, gymnastics can also provide your child with a good balance between individual and team sports. The equipment used in gymnastics may also help your child with sensory processing issues — something that many kids with ADHD experience.
Tennis is a great sport option for children with ADHD who prefer to play individual sports. Since this sport is fast-paced, it may be able to hold your child’s attention for longer than other individual sports like golf. Kids can play doubles tennis if they want some benefits of teamwork without having to play with a whole team.
Soccer is one of the most physically demanding team sport. Players need to run across large fields for long periods of time. This can be a great way to help your child burn off some extra hyperactive energy or sweat out frustration.
Joining a track team is an excellent choice for many teens with ADHD. On a track team, your child can choose the specific sport that they want to excel at, and master this skill at their own pace. But since they’re on a team, they will get the encouragement and camaraderie that they may lack at school.
Baseball may seem like it would be difficult for a child with ADHD because there tends to be a lot of down time (for example, when waiting to be up to bat). But, if your child is up to it, this classic sport can teach them important skills like patience and self-control. Some children with ADHD may need some accommodations to play baseball, like being assigned continuous drills during practice.
Playing sports can be a great way for your child with ADHD to benefit from physical exercise as well as learn important life skills like teamwork and skill mastery. With the right coach and experience, sports can strengthen your child’s self-esteem and give them something to be proud of. Both individual and team sports have their benefits, so talk with your child to weigh all the options.