Sports can be either a positive or a negative experience for A.D.D. children. Exercise helps them burn off excess energy, yet some teen sports can be frustrating because these children have difficulty listening and following the rules. After-school sports are especially valuable in allowing a child to release penned up anxiety at the end of a stressful academic day and to tire the child out so they are more mellow and easier to live with during family time in the late afternoon and evening. Here are some tips for matching child and sport:
- Start early. A younger child develops more a positive attitude about sports because the rules for young children are simpler, and the games are less competitive.
- Match the child’s temperament to the sport. Set your child up for success. If your child cannot handle group situations in swimming class, for example, get semi-private or private lessons first, until the child feels confident. Confidence goes a long way toward helping the child with A.D.D. settle down long enough to cooperate in-group instruction. If your child likes to move around, she will be better off playing soccer than baseball.
- Match the child with the right position on the team. As a Little League coach, Dr. Bill would place the children with A.D.D. on the infield rather than the outfield. When they play outfield, they literally acted as if they were out in left field. They would watch birds, pick dandelions, and pay attention to anything but the batter. On the infield, they had to pay attention because there was more action. On the other hand, he sometimes worries that the particularly spacey infielders might get hit with the ball.
- Be patient. Don’t be too disappointed if the child’s interests wane once he discovers he has to work at his skills. Many kids are like this, but it is more extreme with children who have A.D.D. Not only is their attention more difficult to hold, but they also lack the patience for gradual improvement. They want to be at the professional level instantly.
- Don’t invest too much in equipment until you know that the child will stick with the sport.
- Practice with your child. Your child will maintain her interest if she has more skills before she joins a team. Practice a lot in the two or three weeks before official practice starts. Children who feel confident and succeed are much more likely to stick with a sport.
- Remember that hyperfocus can give an athlete with A.D.D. an edge. In team sports, the child with A.D.D. will usually prefer a position that allows them to lock on and be totally at the center of the action (e.g., a goalie or center in hockey, pitcher, catcher, or first base in baseball).
- Consider martial arts, such as tae kwan do or karate. These sports can be therapeutic for the child with A.D.H.D. because they allow the child to be aggressive but in a controlled way. The child must stand in a certain spot and listen to instructions. He is more attentive because the instructions make sense and have immediate relevance to him.