Xolo Maridueña and Tanner Buchanan in Cobra Kai

From the Field to the Screen: Child Actors Who Excel in Sports

Child actors have been a staple in the film industry for many years, bringing dynamic energy and fresh talent to the big and small screens. While the focus for many child actors is on acting, others have also found success in different areas, such as sports. The intersection of acting skill and athletic ability can provide many benefits for young performers in the field.

Below are some examples of child actors who are also skilled athletes. (Please note: Some of these child actors are now adults!) Their ability to showcase their sports skills in their work has helped to set them apart in the industry and gain recognition for their unique abilities.

Xolo MaridueñaYou’ll recognize him from the Karate Kid spinoff series, Cobra Kai. In school, he was on the tennis team and played basketball on the side. He has been practicing martial arts since he was a little kid. Pssst. Stretching your limbs is a big key!

Bella Thorne – Bella Thorne started her career as a child model before transitioning to acting, starring in the Disney Channel series Shake It Up. She is also a skilled dancer, having competed in various styles such as hip hop, jazz and ballet.

Cole Sprouse – Cole Sprouse rose to fame as a child actor on the Disney Channel series The Suite Life of Zack and Cody alongside his twin brother Dylan. He’s also a talented photographer and has a passion for soccer, having played competitively in high school. They starred in the straight-to-DVD soccer film Just for Kicks.

Dakota Fanning – Dakota Fanning began acting at a young age and has appeared in numerous films, including I Am Sam and The Twilight Saga. She’s also a competitive equestrian, having won several awards for her riding skills. Early in her career, she learned to ride in the film Dreamer, starring Kurt Russell, Elisabeth Shue, David Morse, Kris Kristofferson and Oded Fehr.


Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan in The Karate Kid

Jaden Smith – Son of actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, Jaden has acted in several movies and TV shows, including The Pursuit of Happyness and The Karate Kid. He is also a skilled martial artist, having trained in Kung Fu and later becoming a black belt in karate.

How Sports Skills Are Utilized in Acting Roles

Athletic Roles – If a movie or TV show calls for an athletic character, a child actor who has sports skills can bring added authenticity to the role. For example, if a character is a soccer player, a child actor who has experience playing basketball can bring a realistic approach to the character’s movements and technique.

Physical Stunts – Some child actors may be called upon to perform physical stunts in their acting roles. If a child actor has experience in martial arts, gymnastics, or another sport, they may be able to perform their own stunts or execute the movements required with greater ease.

Movement and Coordination – Sports skills such as agility, balance, and coordination can translate well into acting roles. For example, if a character is required to move quickly or perform a choreographed dance routine, a child actor who has experience in sports such as gymnastics.

Confidence and Discipline – Participating in sports can also instill valuable qualities such as confidence and discipline, which can benefit child actors in their acting roles. These skills can help child actors stay focused and committed to their work, leading to more convincing and impactful performances.

How Being a Well-rounded Individual Can Lead to More Opportunities in the Industry

Becoming a well-rounded individual can lead to greater possibilities for child actors in the entertainment industry. Additionally, by developing a diversity of skills and life experiences, child actors can become more versatile, relatable, and professional, ultimately giving them a competitive edge in their careers.

Versatility – Child actors who are well-rounded and have experience in multiple areas, such as acting, sports, music, or dance, can bring added versatility to their performances. This versatility can make them more appealing to casting directors, who are often looking for actors who can handle a wide range of roles.

Relatability – Child actors who have diverse interests and experiences can often connect better with audiences. For example, a child actor who is also a skilled athlete may be able to connect with sports fans who are watching a movie or TV show. This relatability can lead to more opportunities and can help child actors build a stronger fan base.

Professionalism – Participating in sports or other extracurricular activities can also instill valuable qualities such as teamwork, discipline and time management. These qualities can help child actors to be more professional on set and to handle the demands of the industry with greater ease. This can lead to more opportunities and can help child actors to build a strong reputation in the industry.

Adaptability – Being a well-rounded individual can also make child actors more adaptable to different situations and environments. This adaptability can be invaluable in an industry where schedules and roles can change quickly. Child actors who are able to adapt quickly to new situations and challenges can be more successful in the long run.

Cole Sprouse
Cole Sprouse

Challenges That Come With Balancing Sports and Acting

So you thought we were done, hmm? Nope. There are constant challenges but with the right mindset and approach, child actors can overcome the obstacles that come with balancing sports and acting.

Physical Demands – Both sports and acting can be physically demanding pursuits. Child actors who are participating in sports must be able to maintain their physical fitness and conditioning, while those who are acting must be able to handle long hours on set and physically demanding roles. Balancing both pursuits can be challenging and may require extra effort to maintain physical health and stamina.

Conflicting Schedules – Conflicting schedules can also be a challenge when balancing sports and acting. A child actor may need to attend a sports tournament or competition at the same time as a crucial audition or filming schedule. This can lead to difficult decisions and may require sacrifices on one side or the other.

Mental Exhaustion – Balancing sports and performing can be challenging, as it requires concentration, self-control and sharp attention to detail. When the previous two pursuits end up competing with one another, a child actor might become too drained or overwhelmed. This can be a particular concern when considering students’ school assignments and other extracurricular responsibilities.

Time Management – Child actors must be able to manage their time effectively. They may need to attend rehearsals, auditions and film shoots while also attending practices and competitions for their sports teams. This can be a demanding schedule that requires careful planning and organization.

Being involved in sports as a child actor can have numerous benefits that translate into success on set. From increased physical confidence to enhanced focus and discipline, these young performers are building skills that will serve them well in the entertainment industry and beyond. Whether they’re pursuing future athletic careers or simply seeking a fulfilling hobby, child actors who engage in sports are setting themselves up for long-term growth and success. So, if you’re a parent of a young actor, consider encouraging your child to get involved in sports — it may just be the key to unlocking their full potential both on and off the screen.


If you or your child actor has skills that could land roles, those skills should be on your resume. Click here to add or edit special skills on your DirectSubmit resume!

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