We have all heard the statistics regarding children involved in sports: how kids in sports are less likely to be involved in drugs, or that girls are less likely to get pregnant. There are additional benefits particular to older adopted children that should not be overlooked.

  • When our children first come home, they are often filled with “big feelings:” anger, frustration, worry, feeling overwhelmed. Sports provide them with a positive way to expend those emotions.
  • Some of our children come to us not knowing how to interact appropriately with their peers. Sports provide them with a structure for what to do and how to act.
  • Older adopted children may have learning gaps due to multiple changes in schools, international adoption and acquisition of English, or learning differences. Playing sports is often a way to offset their negative image of themselves by providing an alternate way to excel.
  • Older adopted children have not always been exposed to a variety of positive adult role models. Their coaches can help them learn about helpful, kind, caring adults.
  • Some of our children come to us with underdeveloped motor skills and agility due to their backgrounds. Sports can help them to develop these areas.
  • Team sports teach consequences. Coaches (good coaches!) tell children things like, “We don’t worry if you win or not, but we do care if you try or not. Anyone not trying or goofing around will run a lap or two around the field.”
  • Our children often need to learn how families function. Team sports provide you, as a parent, with connections between sports and families, “Our family is a good team because we work together and cheer each other on.” Or, “Learning to read well is just like learning to bat. You have to practice.”
  • Our children have not always learned about commitment and promises. A commitment to a sport teaches your child the importance of sticking with a sport through the season.

All of these lessons for our children are based on putting your child into settings with positive, caring, supportive coaches. Unfortunately, there have been incidents of parents and coaches being antagonistic, mean, and even violent. If you’re planning to put your child into a sport, find out about the options in your town. What does the governing body of the organization say is their philosophy about their sport? Visit some games in the previous season before you plan to sign your child up. What words are the coaches using with the kids? Are the parents enthusiastic and supportive? What about the kids; are they having fun?

We all want to help our children become the best they are capable of. Participating in sports can provide them with one avenue for meeting their full potential.
Written by: Susan M. Ward, an older child adoption specialist, provides parent coaching and resources for adoptive families. Susan’s training has focused on adoption issues relating to attachment, grief, and parenting. She’s also the adoptive parent of a child healed from RAD (reactive attachment disorder).