Should You Let Your Child Quit Sports? Tips to Keeping Them Involved & Having Fun
“Mom, I think I want to quit.”
If you have a child playing youth sports, the numbers say it’s inevitable that you’ll hear this phrase before your child turns 13 years old. And it doesn’t matter if your child is one of the star players on his team or a bench warmer. Quitting in youth sports occurs across all talent levels.
But there are a lot of benefits to playing youth sports: physical, social and personal. So you may not want your child to quit.
Whether you’ve been through this experience or not, here’s the lowdown on how you can approach the situation to help your kids beat the odds and stay involved.
Working vs. Having Fun
A variety of studies show that more than 70 percent of children playing youth sports drop out by age 13. The overwhelming reason why centers around one word: fun.
Simply put, youth sports can stop being fun for a number of reasons. Here are three examples that you might encounter.
1. Kids burn out & lose interest
There has been an increasing level of sports specialization at younger ages. For many kids, gone are the days of changing sports every three or four months, and looking forward to returning to a sport after months of absence. Children are devoting more year-round energy than ever to a single sport.
You will get lots of pressure from coaches wanting your child to specialize at an early age; even as young as seven- or eight-years old. This usually starts with the recognition that your child has some good abilities in a particular sport.
Then comes the guilt phase. If you want your child to keep progressing and stay ahead of peers, people will advise you to enroll them in a second or third season. Recreational soccer, for example, quickly grows into select teams, complete with fall, winter and spring seasons. Baseball can mushroom from spring/summer to fall ball and winter workouts. Basketball can expand to the spring and summer for amateur athletics.
It gets harder and harder to juggle. The variety of sports lessens and the intensity of a single sport often increases.
How to avoid burn out
Parents have to be confident in saying no to specialization at an early age. It is hard for a variety of reasons. There is no magic answer as to when someone should specialize. Delaying specialization is difficult because you will not see any immediate benefits in your decision. It’s much easier just to say yes, even though in your gut, you may think otherwise.
2. Coaches, teammates or parents create an unhealthy atmosphere
Another big reason why kids quit sports is the poor behavior of coaches, teammates and even parents.
There is always going to be some drama and craziness, no matter what. Teaching your children to adapt and get along with all kinds will go a long way.
The coach who yells a lot, plays favorites or places too much emphasis on winning at an early age can turn a kid away from organized sports. Teammates who create drama and stress can diminish the experience as well. Parents aren’t immune either and their over-the-top behavior can send a kid packing as well.
How to deal with bad behaviors
If you want to keep your children involved in youth sports, start by reflecting on your behavior in two places: the car ride home from games and on the sidelines.
The ride home can be an increasingly frustrating place for your little one if you spend the time critiquing his performance, his coach and the officials. Your behavior in the stands or on the sideline can impact him as well. Your intentions may be good but you might ultimately be contributing to his migration away from youth sports, if you aren’t careful.
Be mindful of your child’s coaches and teammates. Again, no situation is ever going to be perfect. There will always be some frustrations. But if there are issues that don’t appear to be improving, then look for a healthier environment for your child. Just try not to make a habit of bouncing around from team to team.
3. Your child’s skill level doesn’t allow her to keep up with peers
Parents often have a tough time dealing with this one. Kids generally are more realistic and know exactly where they stand. It can be frustrating to be a “bench player” as one gets older. Many younger-aged leagues have specific playing time requirements (i.e. a coach may be required to play a kid half of the game; or for one continuous quarter).
As children move on to more competitive leagues or get older, these playing time requirements are gone. Kids can find themselves on the bench more and more. This can lead to an early exit from that sport; especially given the fact that this generation has so many more options on how to spend their time.
How to deal with the bench
Children’s development in sports can be limited by a variety of factors: lack of work ethic, “coachability” and limited physical attributes.
Is your child committed to the sport? Do they put in the extra work outside of organized settings?
Many children stop improving in a sport because they aren’t as “coachable” as others. This often happens with children who experienced early success in a sport and consequently weren’t open to suggestions from coaches. They may have had a physical skill that put them ahead of others at an early age, but ultimately they stopped trying to learn and didn’t want to work on the things that weren’t easy.
Instill the concept of being “coachable” at an early age. Encourage your children to be open to suggestions from coaches, and practice the things that may be uncomfortable. Be flexible. Try new positions. Be a team player. All of those concepts will likely extend a young player’s youth sports career.
For others, they may simply be in a no-win situation because of their physical attributes. They may be too small or too slow for a certain sport or position.
Help your child take stock of where he may be best suited to thrive. There are sports such as track and field, wrestling, baseball and others that have star players of all shapes and sizes.
Also consider your child focusing on sports that are “no-cut” in high school. This will allow him to have a longer runway for potential success and extend his playing days.
Youth Sports Parents Must Step Up
With youth sports, it can be tough to know where and when to get involved as a parent. But the benefits your son or daughter will receive from it makes it well worth the effort. And by considering the tips for the above scenarios, you’ll be better prepared to deal with the situation when they inevitably tell you they want to quit their sports career.