I have a friend who is agonizing over how to best raise her son. (Haven’t a lot of us been down that road?) In particular, she wants to make sure that he is an active youngster and, as a result of that, becomes an active adult.

The problem is that he’s not really interested in sports. Nothing seems to click for him. She has introduced him to lots of things. Baseball. Martial arts. Gymnastics. Flag football. He has shown little interest in any of those.

Oh, he’s an active kid. He goes 90 miles an hour most of the time with lots of different interests. He certainly seems to love life. Still, this mom wants to make sure she is doing the right things for him.

We have a similar story with my own grandchildren. One seems to really enjoy running, but it’s too soon to decide if that’s her sport and definitely too early to focus on just one thing. Another seems to have a lot of talent on the soccer field but is likely to play everything available to him.

I’ve introduced some of them to mountain biking and a couple really show potential there as well. I mentioned one of the grands last week who has really taken an interest in soccer. But I mistakenly said she was giving up ballet. She’s not. She’s another one that is likely to do lots of different things.

One set of grand kids have become quite good at hiking, camping, and backpacking. That is, after one of them got over thinking about hiking as just walking (and he didn’t see the point in that).

I’ve told the story of my own kids here a couple of times. My son was always likely to be a football player. He towered over kids his own age from an early age. Still does. And football is sort of the family thing. Before football though, he was into gymnastics, baseball, basketball, and soccer.

I always thought my daughter would end up as a basketball player. She loved softball too. But then she discovered volleyball as a high school sophomore and that was it. That was her sport.

My point is this: It is not necessary to pick a sport early and stick to it. No…I’ll correct that: It is a huge mistake to pick a sport early and stick to it.

Travel ball for 6-year-olds? I’m strongly against it. Position coaches and personal trainers at 10? Ridiculous. You think your kid is the next star quarterback? And he’s 8? There’s no way you can know that.

Let them play everything. Make sure it is fun for them. It is important for them to have some success at whatever they are doing — that’s what builds a passion for a game. But for younger kids, it is not important at all to win championships and go undefeated.

Let them be on a team so they learn teamwork. Let them be coached by someone other than yourself so that they learn how to be coachable. If the coach doesn’t recognize their extraordinary talent and keeps them on the bench, don’t blame the coach. Help your kid to get better. It will all work out in the long run.

Help them find their way, not yours. Open doors for them but don’t drag them through that door. Sometimes you don’t even need to hold their hand when they walk through that door. Let them be a part of the world so that they learn how to deal with the world.

Give them opportunities and they will find their way. Give them experiences that are positive and promote movement and they will seek that path.

Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Email joeblackdpt@gmail.com to write to him.

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