At a glance
Kids who have trouble socially can thrive in certain sports.
Sports that don’t require as much social interaction are best for kids with social issues.
Being part of a team, even one with less socializing, can boost your child’s self-esteem.
For kids who struggle socially, participating in a sport with a lot of team interaction may not be enjoyable. In fact, it might feel stressful. That doesn’t mean that sports are out, though. Here are just a few of the sports that have less social interaction but still offer opportunities to build important social skills.
Track and Field
In many track and field sports, the focus is on the individual. But even though kids are only competing against their own best time, they’re still part of a larger team. That can be a win-win situation for kids with social skills issues. They don’t have to interact with other kids during competition, but they still have an opportunity to make friends and hang out as part of a group. Swimming is another sport that shares these qualities.
Yoga isn’t so much a “sport” as a physical activity. But it creates a positive mind-body connection, helps build self-esteem, and improves confidence. All of this can help with social challenges. Yoga can also be calming. At the same time, it helps kids work on balance, flexibility, and gross motor skills. It can also help them become more aware of their bodies and their feelings. There’s no competition in a yoga class, but kids are still in a group setting where they can interact and build social skills.
Racquet sports are easy for a child who has trouble socially. They don’t have complex rules and don’t require working within a team, so kids can jump right in and enjoy. Group classes provide a chance to work on social skills as well as tennis. But the main focus is on the instructor, not other kids. And when it comes to actual matches, kids can play singles—or doubles, if they want a bit more social interaction and teamwork.
Martial arts are a good choice for kids who struggle with social skills. Like yoga and even wrestling, they’re individual sports that don’t involve a lot of interaction and teamwork. Martial arts, including karate and tae kwon do, offer many benefits for kids who learn and think differently. They build , , and concentration. Most importantly, they teach respect for others. Having to bow to your opponent and wait for commands can build social skills that can be used outside of martial arts class.
Team Sports Your Child Really Wants to Try
Kids who struggle socially may not do as well in sports that require a lot of close teamwork. These sports include games like soccer, hockey, and basketball. But if your child really wants to do a team sport—and you find a good coach who is mindful of your child’s unique social issues—there can be a huge upside. With enough motivation, kids can thrive and shine both as athletes and as team players.
Kids who struggle socially can benefit from group sports that aren’t as heavy on social interaction.
It can help to discuss your child’s social issues with the coach beforehand.
You can help your child choose a sport that will be a great fit.
About the author
About the author
Erica Patino is an online writer and editor who specializes in health and wellness content.
Elizabeth Harstad, MD, MPH is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital.