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Dear Debbie tackles issue of unathletic child

Editor's Note: These monthly columns on parenting issues are written by Deb Cohen, associate director of the Early Childhood Program at the Springfield Jewish Community Center. She holds a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education. Send your questions to and look for the answer here.

Dear Debbie,

My wife and I have been married for 10 years and have one son, Todd, who is 8 years old. I couldn't wait to be a Dad and play sports with my son. The problem is is that Todd does not like sports. We tried T-ball and soccer but he was just more interested in the anthills than the ball. He says he does not like sports because he is not good at them. I tell him to practice and he would get better. I offer to drill him but he says no. I am very disappointed and really feel cheated. Don't get me wrong I love my boy, I am just not sure what to do with him. Any ideas how to get him interested in sports would be great. Thanks.

-Sidelined Dad

Dear Sidelined,

I am not sure I can help you get Todd interested in sports, but I can help you get involved in what interests Todd. As parents we all have dreams and plans for our children. What we forget is that the children have dreams and plans too. Your job is to figure out what Todd is interested in and how you can fit into those interests. Take a good look at your son. What does he talk about, play with, what books does he like to read? Letting Todd know you think those things are fun too might open up the door to a deeper relationship.

As far as the sports, I'm wondering if Todd feels some pressure to measure up to your sports abilities and expectations. It sounds like he would rather not try because he is afraid of disappointing you. Rather than offering to "drill" him in ball skills you could offer to play around with the ball for awhile. No competition, no pressure, just fun. Try going to some local high school games together. Talk about the excitement of the game and trying to be the best you can be. Root for the underdog team. Comment on how hard they are working and how proud they are to be on the field. Explain to Todd that it is not all about winning but about playing together to reach a common goal. Remember that a lot of bonding can happen right there on the bleachers so relax and enjoy each other as you become great sports fans.

Until next time, be well,


Do you have a question for Debbie? Email your inquiries to or send your inquiry to: Debbie Cohen, Springfield JCC, 1160 Dickinson Street, Springfield, MA 01108.