Your all-star has been playing little league for years. He’s gleefully gone off to practices and played like a champ season after season. Suddenly he’s saying, “No way” when it comes to sports play. What happened? The entire family has spent time (and money) on your child’s sport, and now it seems like he’s just giving up. The question, “Why did my child quit?” doesn’t have one easy answer. Likewise, there isn’t just one single way to get kids back into the swing of sports.
The Win at Any Cost Mentality
The more that a child feels pushed to compete, the less he wants to play. If you had someone telling you to, “Win, win, win!” would you want to go out onto the field? Probably not. Overemphasizing winning puts unnecessary pressure on a child and takes the fun out of the game. Unless your child’s on a serious track to the Olympics (and very few are) there is no need to focus solely on getting the win. This doesn’t only apply to parents — often coaches and even other children on the team are at fault. Friendly competition and a ‘try your best’ approach are the way to go.
How can you prevent your child from losing interest in the game they love? Dial back the pressure. Help your child focus on enjoying the sport, learning and making the best of his time on the field. If the coach is the one who is pushing the win, have a talk about the possibility of easing up. Not every coach will agree with you but you might bring up good points and the coach may consider modifying his techniques.
Just because your child begged to play basketball when he was 7-years-old doesn’t mean that he has found his one and only extracurricular activity. As children grow and develop they begin exploring other options. A child who joyously hit the soccer field in first grade may discover that art is his true passion later on.
What can you do about it? Not much. Experimenting with different activities is part of growing up. You should encourage your child to investigate his options, and not limit him. If he has a real talent or is meant to play the sport, he’ll eventually come back to it.
Lack of Support
In some cases there is a real lack of support when it comes to sports and performance. A coach may ignore your child’s efforts, you might not be able to leave work early enough to show up to all of his games or he may never hear, “Good job” when he really needs to. A child may also perceive a lack of support when he or she misses or mistakes compliments and praise or compares himself to another child who is getting an overdose of support. When a child doesn’t feel supported, he’s more likely to give up than one who has a ‘cheerleader’ in his corner.
What can you do about it? Be the cheerleader, be present and be the one giving the praise.
Moving up through the grades also means an upswing in the amount of schoolwork required. Spending a few hours a week training or practicing eats into study time. If your child is struggling in school, he may worry that sports take up too much time.
What can you do about it? Teach your child how to create balance in his life. Create a workable schedule that allows him to study and practice without stress.
A new set of friends may put new pressures on your child. Last week he was totally into soccer, and this week he’s telling you, “Mom, it just isn’t cool.” These don’t sound like his words, and you’re pretty sure that his new best bud is the one behind the sudden sports ditch.
What can you do about it? Help your child be his own person. Talk about peer pressure and teach him how to stand up for himself. Let him know that a real friend won’t judge him or make him feel badly for doing something different.
When all else fails, don’t push. Children’s sports shouldn’t be tasks, duties or obligations. They should be fun-filled learning experiences that build character and bring out the best in your child!