Playing Isn’t About Winning

When I was in graduate school, a bunch of us got together to play in a city recreation volleyball league. I went because my roommate was going. I’d never played a sport successfully in my life. I was awkward, chubby, lost in my own thoughts, and not particularly motivated by any physical activity, much less sports. But when we created this volleyball team, Karen stepped up to become our captain. Karen was fit, smart, quick, and had played a lot of volleyball. She happened to be able to teach me enough about volleyball that I actually wasn’t embarrassed to play. That’s the one and only time in my life I felt a sense of confidence, esteem, and satisfaction in a team uniform.

Fast forward fifteen years and I had one of those parenting moments I think many of us have that we can see in hindsight are completely irrational given the kid we actually have but seem SO NORMAL at the time. “Of course my kid will play sports. He will play t-ball. She will start with soccer. We will be sitting on the sidelines each and every weekend, proud parents, cheering in the rain with our color-coordinated team sweatshirts on.”

This post is for those of you for whom that thought became reality. If your ADHDer became a child and then a teen who loves sports and is strong, competitive, and powerful in their purpose to play, nothing is sweeter. We have so many role models of athletes with ADHD who harnessed their energy and became world-class athletes–Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, Cammi Granato, Michael Jordan, and many others at both the professional and collegiate level.

Sports can be a godsend for ADHDers. It harnesses the power of their hyperactivity, the stamina of their hyperfocus, and their impulsivity turns into competitive drive. If it’s swimming, or martial arts, or baseball, or crew, or anything they feel a passion for and commitment to, go for it! Buy the team t-shirt, dye your hair the team colors, sign up for snack duty, and most of all celebrate your ADHD athlete.

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