Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

When to let your kid quit

with one comment

New York Times’ Motherlode blog brings up a thorny question in the households of sports families — when is a child allowed to quit?9588687_b9cc351918_m

Believe it or not, it’s a question that’s never come up in my house. At least, not in terms of wanting to stomp off in the middle of a season. There’s been dabbling, particularly with my oldest children. My 12-year-old son has retired from soccer, baseball and wrestling, while my 10-year-old (as of tomorrow) daughter no longer needs her soccer gear. Then again, we’ve never pressured our children (as far as we know) into a certain sport because it’s good for them.

With four kids, I’m at the opposite end — talking them out of sports and activities they don’t appear to love with every fiber of my being. Especially hockey.  When my oldest son, who has played pickup games and taken hockey classes, said he might be interested in joining a league, I told him it was $1,500 and that he would be playing most every day. So, I ask you, son, do you love hockey, or do you kinda like it? “I kinda like it,” he said. “OK, then, no hockey,” I said. Turns out he much more enjoys putting on his in-line skates, popping some punk and metal on the iPod and zipping around the neighborhood to getting yelled at on the ice.

Back to quitting, I would say I’m hardly out of the mainstream in thinking that I would prefer if my child starts a season with a team, he or she should end it, and then quit. But I can see quitting under certain scenarios:

1. The coach and/or the other players are abusive. Not a little bit of teasing, or a coach who doesn’t worship the ground you walk on. I’m at most every game, anyway, and I coach, too. I know what abusive means.

2. The child clearly does not enjoy the sport. By that I mean you’re halfway through the season and the child prefers picking dandelions to kicking a soccer ball, or playing right field. That it’s a fight to get your child to every practice or game. You’ve already tried the “commit-through-the-season” speech, and it’s just not working. Some kids just don’t like certain activities. If it’s that bad, there’s no lesson your child is going to learn by sticking it out other than you’re unreasonable. Certainly, there will be other activities, sports or not, your child will enjoy, and you can always make finding another one a prerequisite for quitting. No sense making your life hell because your child is so unhappy.

3. Your work schedule changes, and you can’t get your child to practices or games. As a coach, I try to tell parents in this situation that we can make arrangements to have other parents help out. However, usually a child quits because of No. 3 when the indications of No. 2 are already in play.

Of course, some of you parents already know when you should not allow your child to quit under any circumstance. That’s when your child is on a travel team, has been for years, and your child quitting would shut you out from the exclusive, snotty social circle you’ve built with the other travel parents. Sometimes you have to let your children know it’s not always about themselves.


One Response

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  1. Good post, Bob. I had one son quit a sport because of #1. It was really depressing, because it turned him off to the sport for quite some time – only now is he hinting at renewed interest. I am leaving this vague because I have to deal with coaches in question fairly frequently.

    #2 can be somewhat tricky. My Daughter wanted to quit volleyball, which was awkward because I was the coach! She was glad, though, that she stuck it out. Somethings are tricky that way for parents. Later in life, they may be very glad that you made them do something.

    Then again, you want to pick your fights wisely. I was coaching track and one of my sons wanted to quit. It was again awkward, but I let him because he was already pretty busy and he just didn’t want to do it. It did irritate me that for fun, he joined an open track meet and won. He was faster than some of the kids on the relay team I coached that got to the state championship meet! Still, I’m glad that he quit. Dragging him to practices and have him go through the motions would have been miserable for all involved. I say that having coached kids whose parents made them join a team and really didn’t want to be there – I am sure you have too.


    June 30, 2009 at 11:43 am

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