Your Child Wants to Quit a Sport – Now What?

Quitting sports is inevitable, particularly if you have multiple children who participate in multiple sports. Since a majority of kids end their athletic careers in high school or just before, there will come a day when one of them comes to you and says, “I don’t want to play [insert name of sport here].” If it’s a sport they’ve played for one or two seasons in a casual rec league, you may not care either way, but what if it’s a sport he/she has been dedicated to year-round since they were 4?

For many families, between travel tournaments, carpools to practice, team dinners, and time together every weekend on the sidelines, kids’ sports become a big part of their lives too. How do you manage the process and make sure your child is making the right decision?

Hear them out.

Recognize that if your child is in middle school or high school, he or she has likely already made the decision before they came to you. Many have thought long and hard about their choice before bringing it up to a parent.

Have a discussion.

Discuss the reasons your child wants to quit, but really listen to their reasons and refrain from providing any commentary or judgment. Many studies confirm kids quit sports because they no longer enjoy playing and don’t have fun.

Is there an underlying reason?

But the two most common reasons kids no longer have fun are because of bullying and/or teasing and a lack of playing time. Issues with other players or a coach can have an enormous effect on overall happiness on a team. And as kids get older, they begin to recognize that effort no longer translates into playing time and that more talented players get more playing time. Sitting the bench for too long and too often can also put a damper on your child’s enjoyment. Although some players are willing to sit the bench just to be part of the team, most high schoolers would prefer to play on a team where their skill level is on par with others and they can be a regular contributor.

Are there alternatives to quitting?

If after an honest discussion with your child, you discover bullying or playing time to be the cause of their decision to quit, some parental involvement on your part might be warranted. A frank conversation with the coach or even joining a different team are both possible solutions. But if your child wants to quit for reasons that can’t be easily addressed or resolved, including he/she no longer enjoys playing the sport or he/she finds the schedule to be too demanding, quitting may be the right choice. Sports are to be played and enjoyed, not just endured.

Not all decisions to quit are permanent.

A recent study showed that approximately half of current sports team players stopped or dropped out at some point. While 1 in 10 students stopped playing organized/team sports entirely, a third resumed playing after initially dropping out.

Leave your ego at the door.

Remember, it’s about what’s best for your child, not what’s best for you. You can make plans to catch up with team friends over dinner or at a BBQ. The most important lesson for your child in all of this is to recognize that mom and dad are supportive of their decisions and will always advocate on their behalf.

Be sure your child knows that whatever activity he or she decides to pursue—whether it’s athletics, arts, music, or something else entirely — you will be there encouraging and cheering him/her on.

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