How to Encourage Students to Try Team and Solo Sports


A youth soccer team huddles together on the field

Team and solo sports can be a fantastic supplement to physical education (PE) classes, promoting healthy habits and valuable life skills such as teamwork, discipline, and good sportsmanship. Not only that, but these activities can become beloved hobbies that children continue into adulthood and greatly benefit their later lives.

As a physical educator, you may find that, despite the many advantages of team and solo sports, some students still lack any interest in them. With that in mind, let’s look at how you can boost sports participation in your PE lessons and nurture the skills that students start to develop from trying them.

Set the Right Tone

Motivating reluctant students to try a new activity can be one of your greatest challenges in PE lessons. The first question you need to answer is whether or not a child actually wants to participate in the sport – after all, it’s no fun doing something if you don’t enjoy it, even if you’re good at it. More often than not, students are discouraged from an activity because they don’t think they will excel in it, which is why it’s essential to communicate to your class that being the best is not key to practicing sports.

Create a PE environment where all of your students respect and support each other, regardless of individual skill. Some students may be reluctant to participate because they are afraid of being judged or bullied. You must not allow bullying under any circumstances. Instead, celebrate the effort it takes to try something new, as well as the opportunity to learn different skills from one another.

When a child tries a new activity, especially one that is outside their comfort zone, acknowledge their courage and emphasize that every student has something to contribute to the team. This attitude puts a positive spin on the whole experience of trying new team or solo sports.

Break Down Barriers

Boredom is another major factor in a student’s lack of interest in sports. Keeping your lesson plans fresh helps maintain variety and lets your class sample more activities, increasing the chance that they find their preferred sport.

If noncompetitive solo activities appeal more strongly to some students, give them a chance to try activities where you “win” by achieving a personal goal, such as maintaining your target heart rate for a given amount of time. Tracking personal progress can be very rewarding for many children, and even if they don’t like traditional sports, they can still get a great workout from a more unusual PE activity like dancing.

Remember that your students may experience any number of other barriers, including socio-economic and cultural factors, which discourage them from wanting to participate in sports. Some of these factors are beyond your control, but being aware of them may let you find ways to make team and solo sports more accessible to your entire PE class.

Nurture Students’ Skills

When a student demonstrates some level of skill at an activity, they should be encouraged to develop it without being pressured. If a child is pushed too hard, an activity they once enjoyed may stop being fun and start feeling like a chore. Learning self-discipline is important, but those lessons are lost if a sport begins to feel like a punishment.

The skills your students may discover are not just the athletic kind. Some students may show a knack for creating strategies, motivating others, facilitating communication between team members, leadership, or organization. When you notice that one of your students shows promise in a particular area, let them know. This gives them a sense of achievement that is as important as any athletic endeavor, and still lets them associate success with sports participation.

Sports as a Learning Opportunity

Children can benefit from learning that effort and practice are needed to develop valuable personal skills, regardless of any “natural talent.” Solo and team sports are an excellent way to train these skills, while keeping kids active and healthy, which is why it’s so important to keep your PE students engaged.

If you’re looking for inspiration for your PE classes, download SPARK’s free lesson plans with simple instructions for a range of solo and team sports today.

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