Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Posts Tagged ‘youth sports parent

It's OK to be a quitter

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It’s usually treated as some sort of national tragedy that, depending on what statistics are pulled out of what ass, anywhere from 70-80 percent of children in organized sports quit by the time they’re 13.

If you believe that all those quitting kids are a result of them being drummed out of sports they love because of too much organization and too many yelling coaches, then, yes, that’s a problem. However, I’m not sure that — if I may reach into my own ass to pull out some statistics — that 85 percent of those children leaving sports are doing so because they’ve found something else (hopefully productive) they’d rather do.

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“No mas.”

As a coach and a parent, I’m a big believer that a child, even in the face of a lousy coach and a poorly run program, doesn’t quit a sport he or she truly loves. Also, I believe that part of childhood is flitting about from activity to activity, taking what my wife cheekily calls a logical path of self-discovery (a term she coined for my peripatetic early employment career) to determine one’s passions. So, quitting teams becomes a fairly frequent occurrence.

That’s the mindset I brought while reading this Los Angeles Times article in which a mother wrings her hands over the ass-pullingly high quit rate as her 8-year-old son tells her he wants to quit football in an article titled, “When is it OK to let kids be quitters?”

The issue of kids quitting — music lessons, summer camp, sports — has long been tough on parents.

My own quitting dilemma began the way many parent-child negotiations do: with begging. My son Bob had been pleading with me for months for permission to play tackle football. He offered to take out the trash. Clean his room. He even promised to be nice to his sister. Finally, when his teacher told me that Bob had taught his classmates how to go out for passes, I caved. …

But the intensity of the conditioning was unlike anything Bob had experienced. The boys did up-downs until their faces turned purple. They were forced to run laps holding hands as a punishment. While there was an emphasis on teamwork — in theory, football is supposed to be the ultimate team sport — there was a profound absence of positive reinforcement.

So after 13 weeks, and just before the season ended, my son did what his gut told him to do: He quit.

“It’s not fun,” he said wearily. “And I’m tired of the coaches making me feel badly about myself.”

It was a difficult moment. I didn’t approve of one coach’s treatment of the boys, but was it really OK to quit? Would it make Bob a quitter? How does a parent know when it’s time to quit or when it’s time to insist that children stick to what they start?

My only ironclad rule, for my own kids, in quitting is this: Once you commit, you’re in until the season or activity is over. It’s fair to no one if a child quits in the middle of something. It also doesn’t teach your child anything about sticking out a promise, one made implicitly to you as parents, to coaches and to teammates.

At the end of the season, it’s a different story. My 12-year-old, my eldest, has been his three siblings’ sport and activity canary in the coalmine, trying out soccer, baseball, wrestling, basketball, volleyball and hockey, as well as theater, band, robotics, battle-of-the-books team, so with him in particular we’ve had a lot of conversations about quitting sports that ended with my son, indeed, quitting sports.

As a coach, I’ve dealt with players who clearly want no part of playing a sport, on a team, under any circumstance. Instead of the parents trying to convince their kids to stick with it, they would be better served figuring out another activity. It happens. My 12-year-old son, who quit baseball at 9 because, I thought, of a bad experience with a coach and teammates, will not play organized baseball, even intramural wiffle ball, again under any circumstances. He was never interested in playing catch, unlike his siblings, so it was clear he was wired not to care about baseball.

It also happens that sometimes there is a mismatch between the kid and the organization in question, that the child likes a sport, but not how it’s done in a certain league. The L.A. Times writer found a flag football league for her son that was much less intense, and he’s enjoying the game again. If you’re concerned that your child is quitting because of a bad experience, finding another league — if possible — might work, at least to find out for sure if your child just doesn’t like a sport after all.

So before you, as a parent, beg your kid to keep playing, ask yourself whether the child actually enjoys the sports, and the organized nature of it, or whether it’s time to bag it. Remember, you’ve probably watched your child play, so you have a sense of whether this is working out. If a sport doesn’t work out, there are a lot of activities out there for kids. A big reason for that stat on 13-year-olds quitting is not just because they’re weeded out along the way by zealous coaches and the youth sports-industrial complex. Children also weed themselves out in favor of activities they feel passionate about.

Quitting a sport doesn’t make your kid a quitter. It makes your kid a kid.

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Written by rkcookjr

June 12, 2010 at 12:41 am

Former Congressman accused of punching youth soccer coach

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One day you’re a rising star in national politics, the next you’ve fallen from grace to the point you’re punching a kids’ soccer coach who wears a neck brace.

Chip Pickering, once a shoo-in to replace his old boss Trent Lott as the U.S. Senator from Mississippi, instead is begging coach and nurse Chris Hester to drop simple assault charges against him after the two got in a scuffle following a 10- and 11-year-olds’ soccer game in Madison, Miss.

Hester’s team was playing a team featuring Pickering’s son. Hester said Pickering attacked him in his truck, while Pickering said that after he went to upbraid Hester about being what he called verbally abusive to his son, Hester attacked him. For what it’s worth, Hester also has a simple assault charge against him related to the incident. He might have a neck brace, but apparently his fists still work.

Each side’s lawyers are talking to see whether charges might be dropped before a scheduled Jan. 19 court date. Pickering already is on the record saying he wants to settle this “man to man.” Um, Chip, you already tried settling one conflict with Hester man-to-man, and it’s safe to say that didn’t work out too well.

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I’m sure the coach hurts, but I haven’t seen such a hilarious neck brace since the cancellation of whatever the last sitcom was that featured a fake auto accident injury as a major plot device.

If this were just a lesson in how even the most august among us are prone to going goofy at youth sports events, the story would end here. Unfortunately for the Chipster, the incident appears to be part of a precipitous decline from future U.S. Senator to someone going to the courthouse enough to get a punchcard that would make his 10th appearance free.

When Lott resigned as Senator in November 2007, Pickering, his former aide and the son of a judge (Charles Pickering) famously appointed by President George W. Bush and famously not confirmed because of Democratic objections (and a judge who is a longtime power-broker in the Mississippi Republican party and a Tea Partier), was rumored to be the top choice to replace him. Pickering not only refused to take Lott’s seat, but he also announced he would resign from the House of Representatives in 2008 after 12 years, saying he wanted to spend more time with his wife and five sons.

At least with his wife, Chip Pickering’s pledge to “spend more time” meant “spend more time with her before a judge.” In June 2008, Pickering announced he and his wife Leisha would divorce. A little more than a year later, Leisha Pickering sued Chip’s alleged mistress, Elizabeth Creekmore Byrd, in what’s called an alienation-of-affection lawsuit. (Mississippi is one of four states that allow those, which gives aggrieved ex-spouses-to-be the right to sue homewreckers on the grounds they sabotaged a legally binding contract. I guess that sounds easier to rationalize to yourself than “she was my husband’s reverse cowboy.”)

As part of the court cases, apparently Republican bigwigs are trying to make sure a diary Pickering kept of his shenanigans, a missive that includes the names of his boys who covered his tracks for him. This is a bit of an issue because Pickering is the third member of the s0-called, allegedly highly religious C Street Fellowship, following Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (a former House member) to be caught walking the Appalachain Trail.

So I can imagine that the lawyer(s) for Chip Pickering are trying to impress upon the soccer coach with the neck brace to be a little understanding. After all, Chipper’s having a bit of a rough go. C’mon, man, be a pal!

If Pickering is being made to look a fool for the youth soccer incident, well, it’s hardly the first time. You might remember Pickering for his co-starring role as a Congressman appearing a church to preach against evolution and for Christian government in a little movie called Borat.