Why Kids Quit Sports & 7 Things to do When Your Child Wants to Quit
By: Scott Lancaster
The figure is alarming and there’s a 75% chance you’ll experience this with your child. A total of 75% of all kids quit youth sports by the age of 12. With all the travel to and from practices and games, and the hundreds of weekends spent on a playing field, court, or ice rink, I bet you wish you were one of those 75% of parents with a kid that wants to quit.
All kidding aside, this is a key indicator of what’s wrong with youth sports today. And there’s a very good chance you’re already experiencing this or will soon.
Many times kids want to quit for several key reasons:
. They’re not having fun, in other words there may be too much standing around and not enough interaction and continuous activity. Remember, kids have short attention spans, if a practice involves too much down time kids lose interest very quickly.
They’re not experiencing improvement. Would you stick to something if you never improved and were stuck in a situation where no one seemed to be able to help you? Imagine if you were placed in that situation at your job.
. You would most likely not hesitate to seek a new job. If the coaches are not teaching skills or if their attention is just focused on whom they’ve determined to be the star players, there is no way your child will improve their skills or want to continue participating.
. Too much pressure to perform. Remember, kids are often competing amongst and with their peer groups, their lifeline to a social network. Too many times errors are committed, negative comments are made by a coach, or a player misjudges a play, all leading to embarrassment and therefore ruining a child’s overall experience.
Unfortunately, many adults will say “that’s life get used to it”, or “they’ve got to learn sometime”. The irony is, if the roles were reversed and someone went into your office and constantly looked over your shoulder and examined your every move , and made negative comments openly to all your peers every time you make a mistake, we would see how enjoyable that would be to get used to over a short period of time.
We’re not suggesting that athletes avoid performing under different circumstances. It should be conducted under a controlled environment that allows them to develop their performance under different circumstances at their own pace.
We also strongly suggest that coaches and parent s not overreact to specific situations during competition. A parent and/or coach’s reaction should be carefully thought out and communicated in the correct manner, rather than through a display of your displeasure or disappointment. Remember this is not your league, game, or competition, it belongs to the kids.
. Don’t receive adequate playing time. At any level of sport before high school, especially in recreational leagues, every child should receive equal playing time, no matter their ability. Even if your child becomes involved in a travel team, there is no reason they should not receive substantial playing time. If they are good enough to make the team, and make the commitment to attend all practices, they should receive playing time.
. More interested in playing video games and spending time on the computer. Your kid is not the first kid to show more interest in video games, the computer, or watching TV, rather than participating in sports. The culture has changed and we now have to learn to work with these distractions as a tool to encourage them to get outside to play.
The Seven Things To Do When Your Child Wants to Quit Sports:
Let’s look at 7 things you can do to fully examine the situation, change your child’s mind if you determine he or she still has a desire to participate, or more importantly prevent this from happening at all.
How to Fix-It:
1. If you’ve not been attending your son or daughter’s practices or games, begin to immediately. There is so much you can learn from how a coach conducts his practice and communicates with the kids during this vital time.
Practices should be the most enjoyable part of a child’s sports experience, due to the fact that a coach is not burdened by the structure of a game that limit active learning. If you witness kids standing around, long lines waiting to conduct a drill, and not a lot of excitement in the air, this could ultimately affect your child’s interest in participating.
2. Talk to your child after practice in the car ride home. Engage him or her in a conversation by asking questions that provoke a response that you can use to remedy a possible problem. For example, if you see that practice is slow, the energy is not high, or your child complains about going to practice, ask them what they would do if they were coach to make practice fun.
3. Talk to other parents and ask them if they are experiencing the same issues with their child. Attempt to speak to as many parents as possible. Don’t blame anyone, such as the coach. Just explain that you are concerned about how your child is reacting to his or her experience, in order to provoke honest responses.
4. Approach the coach, but in a proactive and positive fashion, out of sight of your child and teammates. You can do this as an individual speaking solely on behalf of your child or with several other parents representing a group of kids. Begin by thanking him or her for all the time they’ve put into the team then explain your child’s loss of interest.
Be sure to emphasize that you would like to be part of the solution for your child, (it’s important that you are not perceived as purely a critic), and volunteer to assist during practice as a support. If the coach agrees (9 out of 10 times they will) present several ideas that directly address the issues at hand (see how to organize and run a practice).
5. Suggest league wide practices, where groups of teams practice together and additional parents are recruited to assist in teaching one particular skill for the season. Begin in the pre-season with a league wide clinic for parents to describe how to teach the skill they’ve been assigned.
This allows every parent to participate without spending hours learning all aspects of the sport. Set-up numerous stations around a field with each dedicated to one skill with two coaches per station.
Have kids rotate to each station in groups of eight to ten (each paired off appropriately with a partner of equal size and ability). Time each station to last approximately 15 minutes with 8 minutes of simultaneous drill repetitions (every kid engaged, no standing around), followed by 8 minutes of mini-competitions that emphasize the drill just learned and executed with their partner.
As a result, you can provide 6 different skill stations, over a 90 minute time period, for a total of 48 – 72 kids for any sport.
6. Incorporate Video Game Play. Yes, the obstacle that many believe is the root to all the reasons why children have lost interest in being active, we’re suggesting use it as a tool to increase their interest in physically playing. Video games can be used as a powerful tool to reduce overall attrition in sports by producing a contemporary experience for kids while accelerating their skill development.
Bring a handheld video game playing device (i.e. Sony PSP) to your next practice and incorporate it into the training.
For example, if you are conducting baseball practice, have the kids specifically play a baseball video game’s skill competition, and replicate that same competition on the field. This brings a different angle to practice and training. Video games are so advanced they have created virtual athletes that replicate precisely all the exact movements a pro athlete makes on the field.
Kids naturally learn by mimicking, the power of having kids learn to field, throw and hit by interacting and mimicking real athletes virtually, then immediately executing those same skills physically on the field is not only a powerful teaching tool, it’s also a way to trick kids into developing a deeper passion for practicing and learning.
7. Let them quit. It sounds outlandish at first, but you have to ask yourself as the parent, “Is it my son or daughter’s decision to play and compete in this particular sport, or is it me that wants them to play?” If it’s the latter, you should let them discover on their own what they would like to do, rather than you making the decision for them.
We all know that if you force or pressure someone to do something against their will it will eventually back fire and not work.
Scott Lancaster is the CEO and founder of Youth Evolution Sports, the next generation of youth sports skill progression and training. Scott was also the Director of the NFL's Youth Football Program and has authored 2 books - Fairplay and Athletic Fitness for Kids.