If you thought youth sports was getting more and more popular every year, here’s news for you. Quitting sports is fast catching up too. It’s like you enrol your toddler for professional sports training, the kid picks up well and looks promising too, the coach is happy, you are happy, and, as your kid and this star athlete grows to become a teenager, starts losing interest in the game and, one fine day quits. All your hopes, dreams for college and career shatter, and you cannot comprehend why.
As per a poll conducted by National Alliance for Youth Sports, close to 70 percent of young athletes quit organised sports as they reach teen age.
If you are a parent or a coach who’s facing a similar situation, or are anticipating it, here’s some advise to deal with it.
Before you can convince or counsel the kid not to quit sporting career, you need to understand in dept why does the child want to quit. This can be both tricky and tedious at the same time. You need to patiently sit with the kid, with an open mind, ready to listen and not advise. The child will not open up instantly. There is a high probability that the kid tries to give you pseudo reasons just because she knows you will try to reason it out. But the trick is to keep listening, very patiently.
Here are some common reasons why kids quit youth sports:
- The kid does not enjoy playing game anymore. It has become more like a routine, and as a part of growing-up, the kid seeks thrill and adventure, or maybe just plain fun.
- Too much of adult supervision, analysis and practice are nagging the child.
- Peer pressure. The kid is not getting time for socialising, missing out on birthdays and parties and has no free time for herself.
- She is scared that if she make a mistake, her parent or coach will shout at her or ridicule her, especially infant of other kids.
Parents and coaches, who are obviously looking at the bigger picture, feel these points are too small to be considered. But the thing to be noted here is that these issues are big for the kid, big enough to compile the child to quit sports. Here are a few basic guidelines which can help prevent such a situation.
- Do not get obsessed with victory. Not every game can be won. Accept loses. This will encourage the child to learn to handle loses too.
- When the child looses in a game, don’t nag her with what she did wrong. Rather, when the heat of the moment has passed, you can have a ‘what we learned’ session, but that should be the start and end of that discussion. For all you know the kid is already in a lot of mental pressure dealing with the loss, and putting added pressure may have severe repercussions.
- Parents, especially if their child is playing well, tend to get obsessed with future dreams and aspirations. So much so, that their life revolves around it. Most kids hate this kind of attention, especially teenagers. Discuss game, when your kid wants to discuss it with you, do not talk about it overtime you see your kid.
- Let her have a social life as well. Give her the freedom to miss practice once in a while just to let her be with her friends. This way you can ensure that your child is not developing a social vacuum in her life.
- Do not be over critical of her. Do not advise her too much. For all you know she is already getting a lot of it from her coach, and any extra advise coming from you may land on her as nagging.
- Deal with mistakes rather sensitively. Mistakes are unintended (hence mistakes) and chances are that the child is already so guilty of her mistake. You need to understand the child’s psych, her state of mind. Sometimes it is best to deal with the subject later, when you are taking a review. Do not get agitated. Your balanced reaction will help her a lot by teaching her to have emotional control.
In most cases, the above things taken care of, the child will not quit. Maybe it was a phase and the kid will move on. But, after having sensibly attended to the issue, the child still feels she wants to quit, you might want to consult the coach or seek professional help to try and understand her fears and concerns. Chances are, that you child does not have interest in sports. In that case it would not be very wise to emotionally coerce her into the field. Remember, a person will be successful and at her best, only if she’s doing what interests her, in what her passion lies. If it’s not sports then so be it. Accept it and move on, and let the child move on too.