Extracurricular Activities and the Mentally Ill Child

August 4, 2010 Angela McClanahan

The summer before Bob started kindergarten, I signed him up for teeball.

I’m still not sure what I was thinking. I’m not a sports fan and have always refuted the argument kids need involvement in team sports to be fulfilled. I guess there was something about the image of Bob in a tiny uniform that must have persuaded me. Whatever it was, we found ourselves on a team.

With A Mentally Ill Child, Just 'Any' Extracurricular Activity Won't Do

The words “unmitigated disaster” come to mind. It quickly became clear team sports would not be Bob’s forte.baseball1

He’s a competitive kid by nature and a perfectionist to boot. He gets his grace and balance (or severe lack thereof) from me and his ridiculously short attention span from ADHD. Then, there’s the bipolar disorder that brings a whole other set of problems to the party.

I didn’t think it would be a big deal—it was, after all, just teeball. I soon learned there’s no such thing as just teeball anymore. These kids and their parents are in it to win it, and they don’t take kindly to those who aren’t willing to give 110 percent.

He tried. But what Bob can’t master on the first attempt, Bob dismisses. I spent most of his games watching him spin in circles as an outfielder, make dirt piles as an infielder, climb the backstop as catcher, and hurl the bat halfway to third base as a hitter. He talked trash to the other teams--and his own teammates, too.

Never have I been happier to see a sports season end.

Finding the 'Right' Sport For A Child with Bipolar Disorder and ADHD

bmxSince then, Bob’s discovered BMX racing. It’s fast. It’s tough. There are no teams. You can be highly competitive or pursue it as a hobby. You get out what you put in. And it’s cool.

An individualized sport without a lot of standing around, mandatory practices and pressure from other parents? He’s all over it. This is his third season on the track. It works for him because it’s a sport that accommodates his issues. Last summer, when he was adjusting to new medications and had no real interest in anything, he was able to step out for a while. When he was ready, he was able to return with no problem.

When that unfortunate teeball season ended, I thought Bob would never participate in sports activities. I was wrong. We were lucky to find something Bob can do (and do well—he places nearly every race). He’s learning to be a good sport, as well as take direction to improve his performance. And the self-esteem boost is immeasurable. I love watching him race—it’s great to be proud of him, and see him be so proud of himself.

APA Reference
McClanahan, A. (2010, August 4). Extracurricular Activities and the Mentally Ill Child, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 19 from

Author: Angela McClanahan

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