Here is a familiar scene for most parents: After a tough loss, your little athlete comes up to you and says, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” How should you react?
On the one hand, you don’t want your child thinking that quitting is the answer any time things get tough. On the other hand, if your child is miserable playing his or her sport, why force them to continue?
It’s a quandary that’s perplexed parents for as long as sports have existed. Before you decide, consider these factors:
Is Your Kid Good at His or Her Sport?
Be honest: The odds that your young soccer player becomes the next Mia Hamm or your fledgling football player the next Peyton Manning is pretty slim. That doesn’t mean, though, that they won’t be able to continue playing through high school and maybe beyond. But parents also need to be realistic about their expectations and their kids’ abilities. If Junior never gets off the bench because he’s simply not as good as everyone else, then it’s probably OK to consider other options.
How Good are their Grades?
Sports and other extra-curricular activities require a significant time investment. Between practices, games, other after-school activities and even religious obligations, there’s not a lot of time left over for things like homework. If your child’s grades are suffering and he or she wants to quit their sport, consider honoring their request; you might see a boost in their GPA.
What’s the Child’s Overall Mental State?
This point goes hand-in-hand with the previous one: Your kid’s grades might be holding steady, but it could be coming at a cost to their overall physical and mental health. If your kid seems overly stressed, frequently sick, or just more agitated than usual, then it might be time to consider dialing something back, especially if your child already wants to quit.
Do They Like the Sport?
A common issue for parents is that they enroll their child in a sport he or she wants to join, then after a few weeks (or even one practice!), he or she declares that they don’t want to go back ever again. This is probably a scenario in which it’s best to make your child play things out until the end of the season (unless, of course, there are extenuating circumstances). Pulling a kid from an activity just because things are becoming challenging sends the wrong message, even if your little one is the worst player on the team. Seeing something through to the end teaches a good life lesson. Besides, you can always pull them out after the season, especially if your child wants to try something new.
Is the Team or Coach Bad?
Here is another tricky one for parents. At the earliest levels, it’s all about having fun, getting some exercise, learning the game, and socializing with your peers. Wins and losses (should be) secondary. The older they get, though, the more improvement you want to see as a parent, both from your child and your child’s team. However, if the youth coach is overly aggressive or just isn’t good with kids, or if your kid’s team is the new version of the Bad News Bears, then keeping your child on the team could be detrimental. But this isn’t necessarily a reason to let them quit. Most youth sports recreational leagues allow you to change teams without penalty. It might be worth changing teams and seeing if your kid starts enjoying the sport again.
What if My Child is Good at their Sport but Still Wants to Quit?
Possibly the trickiest dilemma for parents whose child or children play sports is when the kid may be the star basketball player, but hates every minute of it. If that’s the case, then you need to find out why. Is there a conflict with the coach or teammates? Is the sport taking too much of a toll on your kid, both mentally and physically? Are the losses mounting? If the answer is “yes” to any of that, then those are correctable issues at the lower, recreational and club levels. You can usually have your kid placed on a new team. They may find a new love for the sport.
However, if your kid is in high school, changing teams is probably out of the question. That might be another time when you make your kid play out the rest of the season before reevaluating your options afterward.
But what should you do if your kid suddenly hates their chosen sport, even if they’re good at it? If that’s the case, then it’s probably OK to let them walk away once the season is over, especially if they want to try something new and promise to commit to it. Forcing your kid to stick with the sport they hate for several years, though, can wind up doing more harm than good.
Sports Are Still a Great Idea for Kids
Even if your child isn’t particularly athletic, sports are still a good idea because it teaches kids about teamwork, camaraderie, and working through adversity. Those are all life lessons that will serve your little one well later on in life, even if they don’t grow up to be the next superstar athlete.