What Sports Does Your Kid with ADHD Play?

Updated on May 23, 2012
X.O. asks from Naperville, IL
16 answers

My 5.5 yr old NEEDS more physical activity. I get him outside as much as possible, but with 2 younger brothers it isn't always possible for him to run around as much as he should. We need to get him into some sports, but he was kicked out of his soccer program (I think the coach/teacher was just a bit inexperienced with the age group, but who knows). He does individual swimming lessons because I know it is not safe for him to take group classes when he is still so impulsive. He has NOT been diagnosed yet, but I am fairly certain he has AD/HD and will be switching doctors soon to try to find one who takes my concerns seriously.

Anyways, got any recommendations (especially local programs; ie, Western burbs of Chicago?)

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So What Happened?

ooh, glad to know karate is a good one. He's starting karate in June :)

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answers from Philadelphia on

Yep, my 14 yr old's been doing karate since he was 6. He's got ADHD and is also on the Autism spectrum. Karate is fantastic. Any team sport with a coach and a bunch of other kids was a disaster.

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answers from San Diego on

Karate & gymnastics

When I worked with children with ADHD, both activities seemed the most enjoyable and exhausting: )

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answers from Washington DC on

My son (6yo, ADHD-combined type) has done TaeKwonDo, swimming, baseball and soccer.

That being said... be careful of the temptation to assume that a hyper-active kid needs to participate in lots of active stuff.

Kids with ADHD move/talk/think/act constantly because they CAN'T stop, NOT because they ENJOY it. For my son, at least, too much outside stimuli make him feel way out of control. Sure, he appears to be the wildest kid out there (even on medication), but if you ask him about it, he says the OTHER kids are too wild. He feels better after an hour or two in the bookstore!

I'd recommend sticking with what's working instead of trying a lot of NEW things at this point also. Until you get a handle on his ADHD, soccer won't be the only thing he gets kicked out of. You don't want to set him up to feel rejected for something he can't control.

Team sports probably aren't your best bet at this point, because there are just too many variables, and too many other kids you can't control. I would stick with individual swimming, and try Karate (see if they'll do a few individual lessons while he learns the basics), and then try to get him to the playground or a big tree to climb.

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answers from Seattle on

Ha! Fun, fun, fun :)

- gymnastics
- swimming
- aikido
- snowboarding
- skateboard/razor (parks are great, they go in circles!!! So you just sit and they loop).
- break dance
- singing (yes, singing counts as a sport, major muscle use)
- acting

We did team sports when he was younger, at 5 they faded out. (When the ENTIRE soccer team is running the wrong way, or acting like the Marx Bros its one thing, when the rest of the team isnt, and your kid is, they get heartbroken or spiteful). His dad had him in baseball @ 7 & 8 ... It was an unmitigated disaster! He was soooooo unmanageable. Not necessarily on the field (sometimes!), but AFTER. Used up every bit of self control. It was HORRID.

There are other great ADHD sports, but here's why the above are grand

- Gymnastics: total body movement in both gross and fine motor. Switches areas too quickly for them to get bored with one. Learns ful body control/ LIMITS/ safety, teaches 'planning ahead' before launching oneself at/on something... Aka impulse control, taking turns, listening with ears and eyes and body, body awareness in space.

- Swimming: full on sensory experience. VERY calming. Might not look like it, but the 'mellow' that follows? Priceless. Also useful in the not drowning side of things.

- Aikido/martial arts: direction, respect, cause & effect, working with a partner towards a common goal, body awareness, awareness of others. (horseback riding is another great one for the same reasons). Emotional monitoring & regulation via breath, heartrate, and acting out 'emotionally charged' events while keeping cool / keeping their head ((All true IF AND ONLY IF in a good dojo. Some teach the opposite, no control, feeding anger, shame/humiliation circles, 'breaking students down', etc. :P

Skiing/Snowboarding (ditto surfing, but surfing has the sensory thing with water added) : like skateboarding, but without the blood from landing on the cement. Controlling your body in motion (gravity), spatial awareness, cause and effect, limits.

- Dance : body awareness, timing, interacting and responding to an outside element (like ski/snowboard/surfing with gravity/surf, riding with the horse, martial arts with your partner... Dance interacts with music)

- Singing : is ALL about control

- Acting : combines mental and physical, helps with the 'what if?' aspect (ADHD kids tend to 'lie' a lot figuring out various 'what if?' scenarios... Acting let's them do that without being 'bad'. Physicality, cause and effect, working as a team, following direction. Stunts/stage fighting teach control and planning.

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answers from Houston on

Pretty much all sports were disastrous for my son. Gymnastics had too much hanging around waiting for turns. All team sports were just a whine/fit throw fest. He is only good at individual stuff like tennis or golf.

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answers from Dallas on

My son is what I would call borderline ADHD. He shows signs and symptoms at home but the school assessment fell just short to be able to diagnose him for certain. (This is per his psychiatrist.) He is ODD and we see a therapist for that. We tried baseball but same as your son - unable to focus on the field activity and the coaches. What he has enjoyed is running. I have had him do some 1k and 1 mile fun runs and he really likes those. If your son enjoys walking you might try some of the fun runs (usually in conjunction with the 5k races)

ETA: I know karate is usually a really good sport for ADHD kids. It really give them alot of discipline and structure. You might check into that also.

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answers from Sacramento on

The one our son stuck with the longest was Parkour. Look this up ... it's custom-made, really, for boys with ADHD. It involves a lot of running, climbing walls, jumping and doing dangerous things. Our son's class was done in a kids gym with the guidance of instructors, so it's much safer than the outdoor variety. Parkour is pretty hot now, so you should be able to find a local gym offering a program. Our son did fine in a group setting because there was zero down time ... he was dripping with sweat by the time class ended. It was the only thing we found that tired him out.

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answers from Chicago on

All park districts work with Special Recreation Associations so if you register for a class you can request an inclusion assistant. It's free to you (besides the cost of the class) and the assistant just serves as a personalized coach. Helping your child with the rules and staying focused while he plays things like Soccer or T-ball.

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answers from Portland on

Both of my grandchildren are diagnosed with ADHD. My grandson had to quit soccer, when he was 6 because he couldn't focus on the ball and the action. The ball would be right in front of him and he didn't seem to see it.

He got plenty of exercise on the playground and walking with us. We're a family that walks. The baby goes in a stroller and his family walks to the park and to the grocery store 2-3 times/week. He runs ahead and back again covering two to three times the distance as everyone else. lol At 8, he asks to "run laps." At his home he runs around the playground several times. At my house he runs from the garage to the sidewalk over and over. I see and hear him making motions with his hands and talking to himself. I think he has an imagination routine that includes more than the running.

My grandson couldn't take group lessons because he couldn't pay attention to the teacher. I suggest that if your son can pay attention and follow directions group lessons would be OK. The instructor knows how to keep track of all the children.

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answers from San Francisco on

If you can manage it time-wise, get him into a sports program that's parent participation. That's been the key to success for my son. This way you can handle some of the side issues leaving the coach free to move on with practice.
Karate has been suggested to us many times since it teaches children to focus. I plan to try out this coming year.

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answers from Boca Raton on

My younger son . . . never diagnosed ADD but it is something I've suspected - he's been in karate since he was 8. He's 14 now and a black belt.

Karate was one of the best things we ever did for him.

I would look VERY hard for a dojo with a sensai who meshes well with your child. Our dojo's sensai is truly gifted with kids. He's not a push-over but he's great at sensing what each child needs.

Good luck!

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answers from Minneapolis on

Individual sports only, for us! Team sports were a disaster! We forced our oldest to participate in team sports (hockey, soccer, baseball and football) until he was about 8 and finally gave up after his football coach (who was also his soccer and baseball coach) couldn't deal with his impulsiveness. He thought my son was hot dogging...as he'd often take off with the ball and ignore plays and strategies, but I think the problem was just too much stimulus (lots of parents in the stands, the big wide open field, long hours of practice, tons of peer pressure) and when that happens he can get overwhelmed. He deals with that by doing his own thing, despite any directions he's supposed to follow.

We've had great success with Kung Fu, golf, bowling (here there are junior leagues and it's considered a sport) and swimming. While not really a sport but more of a skill that requires alot of hiking, camping and outdoor survival skils, my son loves orienteering. There are clubs. You might want to check this out through your local parks.

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answers from Chicago on

Awesome suggestions!! Don't forget biking-my kid loves it, as well as inline skating. Tennis has worked out pretty well, too. Finally, we took him snowboarding this winter and it was a blast for him.

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answers from St. Louis on

All of them! Soccer is actually one of the easiest for kids with ADHD cause they are always moving and the rules are easy. My oldest daughter was the keeper which you would think would be boring but when the ball was on the other side she studied the forwards to figure out which one would attack. She was damn good at it.

They play/played softball/baseball, they can do it but def on the boring side.

Basketball was another good one. Volleyball, kind of on the lines of baseball but a little better.

My oldest tried football and found memorizing all the plays tedious.

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answers from La Crosse on

My 11 yr old has ADHD and he does baseball, basketball and use to do flag football.

He did swimming lessons and has mastered that but he goes to the pool on Tuesday and Thursday's during the summer to play.

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answers from Chicago on

My children are in football, baseball and basketball. Your son is at the perfect age to be diagnosed, you need to hurry with that because you don't want your son to get behind in school and it took years to finally have my son "caught up".

Next question: How to Handle Kids with ADHD Playing Sports.