Your child may love sports, but he will have days when he wants to quit.
Or, your child may be trying sports for the first time, and has discovered that he wants out NOW.
What do you do when your child says, “I quit” to sports?
Pinpoint a reason. Take your kid to lunch or for ice cream and talk. Don’t accuse, don’t assume. Just listen. Find out why they want to quit. What changed to make them want to give up?
Seek to understand the situation. Do some old fashioned parental investigating. Attend practice and observe the coach and team dynamics. That may reveal a lot.
Ask other parents if their children are feeling the same way. Privately approach the coach–without any accusations–and ask what he’s observed in your child’s play. Ask for his suggestions, his help.
Help them think through their decision. Ask questions like: How do you think your coach/teammates will feel if you leave the team? Is there something else you want to do instead of play sports? Do you want to play a different sport? Or on a different team? Would you like to try this sport again later?
Decide whether to push the issue. After gathering the facts, decide if it’s worth the battle of insisting they not quit until the season is over or at all. If you conclude he needs to stick with the sport, make sure he knows why and for how long. We bought the equipment and paid for you to play, so you will stay on the team until the end of the season. After that, you may try something different.
Find opportunities for character growth. Once you have figured out why your child wants to quit and you’ve decided to make them stay in the sport, the season then becomes an opportunity for your child to develop character. Whether it’s getting along with a coach, learning to be a team player, or learning to deal with mistakes, your child can learn life lessons that he will not forget.
Encourage a life outside of sports. Don’t overbook your child. Be sure they have time to just be a kid. Encourage other interests. Talk about other stuff. Balance.
Keep it fun. Keep it positive. Sometimes your athlete may just need an attitude adjustment. A few suggestions to help them find their good attitude:
- play a casual version of the sport at home or at the park so your child enjoys the process without the pressure of competition.
- Take your child to some pro or college sporting events and let him see skilled players in action. That may just be the motivator he needs!
- Find a sport you can enjoy with your child and take lessons together.
There may be times when quitting is the right option. If you decide that quitting the sport really is best for your child–her grades are suffering, he has health issues, or you just don’t think it’s worth the battle–acknowledge that your athlete has made a difficult choice. Remind her that she can try again later if she wants, or seek an alternative. Maybe she would enjoy the same sport on a less competitive team or maybe he wants to do an more individual sport like tennis or wrestling or swimming. Or maybe, just maybe, he wants to do something other than sports.
Prepare for the next time he wants to quit. Develop an anti-quitting plan even before your athlete signs up for a new sport. In our house, it was a rule. You finish the season because you committed to your team (unless you are injured). After the season, you can choose to quit the sport if you wish.
If your child quits a sport–or any other activity for that matter–after giving it a season, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, trying new things is a good way to find something he really loves to do.