By Erica Patino
Sports tryouts can be trying for kids with learning and attention issues. If your child doesn’t make the team or isn’t picked as a starting player, here are tips to make the experience more constructive.
It may feel like a big blow in the moment, but it’s not the end of the word if your child doesn't make the team. Praise her for doing her best. If she’s in elementary school or younger, you might say, “It’s OK, we’ll try something else.” Kids try lots of activities when they’re young. If your child is in middle school or high school, you might use the opportunity to ask, “Why do you think it didn’t work out?” or “Why do you think you didn’t become a starting player?”
You don’t know why your child didn't make the team? It’s OK to call the coach or sports organization and ask for feedback. Kids with learning and attention issues can benefit from knowing what really happened, instead of just experiencing another rejection. Once you know the reason, it can help to talk to your child and remind her that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. You can say: “There are some things you are good at, like running fast, and things that you need to work on, like throwing.”
You might want to ask the coach about which sports could be a good fit for your child. For example, if she didn’t make the basketball team because her reflexes weren’t fast enough, she still may do well on the swim team. Not making the team can actually help point your child toward a different activity. For example, if your child didn’t make the basketball team but her art teacher praises her painting skills, you might steer her toward more art classes instead.
Help your child assess what happened. If she just needs more practice and really likes the sport, you could encourage her to keep practicing and try out again. If your child really loves a sport but doesn’t have the skills for an advanced team, you can talk about expectations. For example, she may good enough to play softball in the neighborhood recreation league even if she didn’t make the school varsity team.
Sometimes kids with learning and attention issues experience social rejection on a sports team. They might say, “The two best players on the team think I’m weird.” If this happens, talk to your child about how she’s feeling. You may also want to speak with the coach about addressing any teasing. Are you looking for other options besides sports? Consider these extracurricular activities that build skills.
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Erica Patino is an online writer and editor who specializes in health and wellness content.
Elizabeth Harstad, M.D., M.P.H., is the author of 7 Steps for Success: High School to College Transition Strategies for Students with Disabilities.
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