Basketball Is a Contact Sport… and Other Sensory Observations

Basketball is a contact sport – and if you have a kid who doesn’t like to be touched, beware!

Signing my 8-year-old son up for basketball seemed like a no-brainer.

He needed a winter sport to get exercise.

He had never played basketball but wanted to try.

Funny how the things that seem easy peasy lemon squeezy are the exact opposite.

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Basketball Is a Contact Sport.. And Other Sensory Observations | Mommy Evolution

The season began innocently enough.

The first two months were focused only practices.

They dribbled the ball.

They tossed the ball.

They passed the ball.

They tried to get the ball in the basket.

When the coach called for a team huddle, Vman would stand outside the circle.

As a kiddo with Sensory Processing Disorder who really doesn’t like being touched by others, he had absolutely no intention siding up with his teammates.

I’m sure the coach thought something was off, but I decided to just let it go.

Vman is 8 now, and he can manage many of his sensory issues on his own and wants to as well.

But then the games began.

We had a full 10 weeks of basketball games scheduled on the calendar.

Basketball Is a Full Contact Sport

In basketball, besides the basics of handling the ball, coaches teach kids that they have one person they need to guard.

Each child is paired against another kid on the opposite teach.

Their one job is to block that person from being passed the ball.

And if that person has the ball, that child’s one job is to keep that kiddo from being able to pass the ball to another teammate.

Sounds innocent, right?


Besides being in someone’s space, which is part of the game, children take it to a whole new level.

They barely leave 2 inches between their face and the other kid’s.

They wave their arms frantically, often slapping the other child’s arm.

They even bump bodies.

They are all over the place.

Talk about a nightmare for Vman.

There’s no doubt that basketball is a full contact sport!

I have to hand it to him.

Vman really did want to play.

He tried his best.

But often it would just get too overwhelming.

He felt absolutely trapped on that basketball court.

Basketball is a Contact Sport - Living with Sensory Processing Disorder | Mommy Evolution

As parents, we often wonder when to intervene, when to say it’s time to quit and when to encourage your child to push forward.

As my son gets older, my husband and I find ourselves leaning more toward encouraging him to push forward, figure out when it’s the right time for us to intervene and if there’s a right time to quit.

Vman was quite miserable some games and managed okay during others.

A couple of them he left the court in tears because he was matched up with an overly enthusiastic (aka aggressive) kid.

The coach (a fellow dad) did his best to try to help out Vman.

I know he really didn’t understand what was going on.

That’s how many people view sensory issues.

They just don’t get it.

They can’t see anything wrong so they just think the kid is being overly sensitive.

Quite honestly, I didn’t feel like trying to explain it to yet another adult either.

We bumbled through the season.

Some games we thought this was a good growing experience for Vman.

Other games, I just thought we should up and quit. Instead, we decided to let Vman sit out when he wanted to.

If he said he was done, he was done. We weren’t going to try to talk him into it.

We weren’t going to try to make him feel bad for not participating.

But we also didn’t leave the games.

He was part of the team and could encourage his teammates on even if he wasn’t going to play.

When the final basketball game ended, we celebrated.

We didn’t celebrate the season.

We celebrated the ENDING of the season.

We celebrated the fact that Vman learned a new sport.

We celebrated that he had learned what he was comfortable with.

And we celebrated that, no matter what, he wasn’t playing basketball again next winter.

Read more about Sensory Processing Disorder on Mommy Evolution. To learn more about sensory challenges or to join our inclusive community, visit The Sensory Spectrum.


  1. Good for him for sticking it out! And good for you as a parent letting him sort out what he can by himself, I think all kids can benefit from us not always stepping in (even though we want to!) Have you ever considered swimming? There are a couple of kids with SPD on my son’s rec team and they love it. They get the team experience but because they’re in a lane by themselves there’s on one to get in their space. Just an idea ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. He absolutely loves swimming. But only in the summer in the outdoors pool. The local indoor high school pool is FREEZING and he’s absolutely miserable.

  2. As a fellow Sensory Sensitive I have never had the thought “easy peasy lemon squeezy” about any sport ๐Ÿ˜‰
    My guy decided early on he was “not into” sports – and I hope I didn’t influence him too much in that. he has motor skills as well as sensory challenges…
    But i applaud your and your son’s cojones in trying for this and, it sounds like, really succeeding! (In your own way)…

    1. Ha! Definitely succeeded in our own way! We’ve had lots of success with soccer and gymnastics. Vman has been doing gymnastics since he was 1 and he absolutely loves it.

  3. We do soccer and he looks forward to it spring and fall. We did try one season of basketball, but that was enough, for the same reasons you mentioned. I’m always just proud of him for getting out there and trying something new, because that’s often the biggest accomplishment!

    1. So true! You have to celebrate the successes — which includes getting through a basketball season. And I always encourage my boys to try new things. Sometimes they surprise me and themselves!

  4. My SPD kiddo often says he wants to try basketball. Honestly we haven’t tried it yet. He’s 6 and if we go from one activity to another, he gets burned out and we have a hard time getting him to attend practices, games, etc without a major meltdown. He does Tae Kwon Do throughout the year. This gives me a lot to think about because I’ve often wanted to give into his desires and sign him up. Although he has no concept of space and is always one that is too close and in others faces, he realizes when someone is too close to him and he does not like that. Thanks!

    1. But Tae Kwon Do is such an awesome sport! We tried but it just didn’t fit…. combined with ADHD it wasn’t the right mix. And you’re right about trying to fit too much in. I’ve gotten much better about saying no to things because the transitions are so painful.

  5. How exciting to let him learn a new sport – and more about himself. Glad he could be a part of the team.

    1. I am, too. Character building is just as important… and learning that it’s okay not to like something is important, too.

  6. I remember watching our sensory kiddo walk to the T-ball tee with tears in his eyes at every game. After every game we would ask him if he wanted to end the season early. He would say, “No” and that he liked to play, it was just that he didn’t know all of the people in the stands on game day.

    He was comfortable at practice with the same moms and dads, but the games really threw him off, with a different crowd watching. I would never have guessed that was the reason he would be so upset. It reminded me that I always needed to ask him what the issue was, and not just assume.

    Fast forward nine years, and he just completed his first season of middle school football. We were all shocked he wanted to do it. He had a successful season.

    Middle school itself has been rough and his sensory issues are in full swing on some days, but every little victory counts with these kiddos. And they are stronger than anyone will ever know.

    1. Absolutely. Every little victory does count, Polly. And yes, some of the things I expect to upset my sensory kiddo don’t. And the things I don’t think about are the things that knock him off of his game.

  7. Just curious, did you tell the coach he had SPD?

    1. Yes… but the coach was a fellow dad. And honestly, even professional coaches we’ve known haven’t known how to handle things.

  8. I found your article because I was researching sports and sensory kids. Itโ€™s encouraging to know Iโ€™m not alone. I have โ€œthatโ€ kid. The one who pokes and tickles people and boops them on the head with the ball instead of playing soccer. We are counting down the last three practices left and wondering if our 7 year old should play at all next year. ?โ€โ™€๏ธ

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