One thing parents often think about if their child has ADHD is: Should my child be playing in school sports? While there are many ways that children with this disorder can benefit from sports participation, there are also potential drawbacks for parents to consider before letting their child join a team.
Here are some things to consider:
The Pros of School Sports
There are plenty of great reasons that children with ADHD should be involved in school sports. Sports can provide benefits that can particularly help those struggling with this disorder. They include:
- Self-esteem: Children with ADHD can often struggle in the classroom — and this in turn can affect the way they see themselves. Sports can give a student the chance to shine, and increase their self-esteem at the same time.
- Self-control: Emotional control is not always easy for children with this condition. Sports gives them the chance to improve skills such as self-discipline and self-regulation, and this can have benefits for them both on and off the field.
- Social skills: Children with ADHD don’t always find it easy to make or keep friends. This can be one of the most emotionally painful parts of this condition. Sports can provide opportunities to bond with peers and can increase a child’s ability to form relationships with classmates.
Some sports might potentially be better suited to ADHD students than others, notes the Henry Ford Health website. Team sports — with potentially more distractions and an emphasis on whole team coaching — might cause more problems. The site suggests that parents consider, an an alternative, sports with a more individual emphasis. These alternatives include swimming, cross-country running or wrestling. The increased emphasis on one-to-one coaching and potentially fewer distractions could benefit ADHD athletes.
The Cons of School Sports
Parents should also be aware of potential drawbacks of sports for children with ADHD. Benjamin Fields, Ph.D., M.Ed., writing on the Nationwide Children’s Hospital website, notes that there are issues that parents should think about ahead of time when they’re considering sports for children with ADHD. These include:
- Distractibility: Athletes with ADHD can face similar struggles on the field that they do in the classroom — in not paying attention when they need to. They can lose focus during practices or an actual game. This can lead to mistakes or not hearing instructions from a coach because they are talking.
- Lack of sustained engagement: Sports require a sustained commitment and a lot of hard work. Athletes who have ADHD may struggle with this. When practices or a game schedule gets difficult, they might struggle with staying motivated and want to quit in response to that pressure.
- Difficulty with good sportsmanship: Good sportsmanship requires emotional regulation, which ADHD children can struggle with. This could mean they more easily lose their temper with a teammate or start crying when the game does not go their way.
There are many excellent reasons why students with ADHD should participate in school sports. However, parents should know before their children start in organized sports that children with ADHD can have particular struggles in athletic situations.
Still, many experts agree that, while there are potential challenges, sports participation for children with ADHD carries with it a wide variety of benefits that could spill over into other areas of their lives.