Children are expected to be fidgety sometimes. But if your child tends to struggle with focus and organization to the point that they’re routinely struggling in school, at home, or in social settings, it may be an indicator of ADHD.

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a common neuro-developmental disorder that affects many school-aged children. ADHD affects approximately 6.1 million children nationwide and 129 million children worldwide.

ADHD can make participating in school and other daily activities challenging for your child, which can lead to lowered self-esteem, frustration with school performance, and hinder your child’s ability to fully see their own talents and skills.

Helping to manage the effects of ADHD may need to go beyond what’s already being done at school and at home. That’s where the power of sports comes in!

Sports help your child practice patience, learn body awareness, apply appropriate social skills, and develop a better self-image. From giving their brain and body a workout to building self-confidence, here are the ways sports can help support children with ADHD.

Sports Teach Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence

Constant redirection from adults, lack of focus resulting in low grades, poor social skills leading to social isolation, and constant redirection from adults can all result in weakened self-esteem in children with ADHD. This may cause them to question themselves and what assets they bring to the table.

Participating in sports provides rich opportunities to help children build their self-esteem and self-confidence. When children with ADHD pick up a new sport, they can opt for either a solo endeavor or a group pursuit.

No matter which route they choose, they will get to work together with their teammates toward a common goal. As they do this, they get to contribute their unique skill set to the greater good of the team.

Sports give children with ADHD an opportunity to showcase talents they might not know they have. With every milestone they reach, they will hear positive feedback from teammates and coaches. This helps them start to recognize the greatness within themselves!

Repeatedly hearing these things from their coaches and teammates gives children with ADHD a sense of achievement. Over time, these things will settle into their mind, helping to change the way they see themselves and cultivating a more positive overall belief system.

And practicing these skills in a sports setting can transfer to other areas of their lives, including at school, at home, and with peers.

Sports Teach Socialization and Teamwork

Social situations are often difficult for children with ADHD. They may interrupt frequently, become frustrated waiting for their turn to speak, or not grasp the importance of taking turns in a conversation.

Sports are an excellent way for children to practice their social skills. They’re able to practice communicating with their teammates and coaches. They also get a chance to recognize different social cues, such as facial expressions and body language.

In sports, children with ADHD also learn how to trust others, learn why rules are in place (and how to follow them appropriately), and learn how to effectively participate in structured and unstructured activities.

Above all else, children with ADHD learn how to make friends when they participate in sports. And as they form relationships and find themselves making friends successfully, they can transfer this skill set to other social settings.

Sports Train the ADHD Brain Like a Muscle

It’s no secret that exercise offers an abundance of benefits. Exercise doesn’t just help your child’s body, it helps their brain, too.

Your brain is often compared to being like any other muscle in your body. And the only way to strengthen a muscle is to give it a proper workout!

As children with ADHD learn a new sport, it fires and wires feel-good neurotransmitters in their brains. This leads to increased levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, two hormones that may be naturally lacking in an ADHD brain.

Consistent participation in sports and exercise elevates these levels. This improves overall brain function, including brain development, learning, memory, and plasticity. For a child with ADHD, this helps them learn how to focus, stay on task, and reduce impulsive behaviors. 

Which Type of Sport is Best for Children with ADHD?

When it comes to selecting a good sport for a child with ADHD, there are a few important factors to consider.

Allow your child to try out several different sports before they decide which one is right for them. They’ll likely get this opportunity naturally at school, through different programs and classes, after-school camps, and as they are exposed to different sports in the media.

It’s important to remember that while they are experimenting with different options, it is highly likely that they will change their mind as they go. This is common for children with or without ADHD!

Whatever they decide, the sport they choose should reflect their unique personality and preferences. It should keep them hooked and interested — the more personal investment they have in the sport they select, the more likely they are to pursue it seriously and consistently.

There are also individual vs team sports to consider. While each type offers its own benefits, team sports usually require lots of downtime. This can lead to children losing focus and losing interest.

Solo sports offer children more one-on-one attention and individualized support from a coach, meaning they’ll hear more positive feedback more frequently. Many solo sports also require children to be more in tune with and connected to their bodies, which may help improve their focus.

Whichever option you and your child go with, make sure that your child’s coach is positive, optimistic, and aware of any ADHD diagnosis, so they can further support your child on and off the field!

Gymnastics: The Gold Medal Sport for Athletes with ADHD

Sports are a fantastic way to help children manage their ADHD. Gymnastics is considered to be among the best, and is a “gold medal” sport for doing just that!

In addition to helping children learn to maintain focus, the equipment used in gymnastics helps children with ADHD practice gross motor skills like body strength, balance, and muscle familiarity.

Mountain Kids offers gymnastics classes for kids of all skill levels, including kids with ADHD who may need extra support and accommodations.

We know it can be a challenge if your child has ADHD or neurodiversity, but at Mountain Kids Louisville, our doors are always open to help your child thrive!

Come join us for year-round classes that will challenge and inspire your kids at every level!

Mountain Kids offers gymnastics classes for children of all ages and abilities >