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Ask the Expert: How Should a Parent Respond When a Child wants to Quit his Sports Team?

Sometimes kids outgrow a sport, and that's okay. We asked the owner of Soccer by Coach Fher how to navigate the transition if your athlete decides they want to quit the team.

How should a parent respond when a child wants to quit his school sports team midseason?

unhappy sports playerThe most important thing to do is talk to your child with an open mind and assesses the situation by attending a few practices and games. The parent can benefit from watching as a spectator and noticing the behaviors their children exhibit while participating in their sport. It’s important that children have fun while they play their sport, and they shouldn’t feel judged or pressured to continue the sport if their heart isn’t in it.

Parents should ask what is going on in the child’s head, and why they’ve decided they’d rather not pursue the sport anymore. It could be because the child feels he’s either receiving too much attention on the team and does not want to feel that pressure, or that he’s not receiving enough attention and wants to focus on a place where he can excel more. He might also feel that he’s not being engaged with the coaches or cannot reach the level of the other children. Children tend to see other kids as better, so sometimes they’d rather not make the effort or practice to reach the skill of other people, or even compete at their own level, fearing it’s a demotion. 

If your child feels he isn’t a strong enough athlete, additional practice is a great way to help him feel stronger in his own capabilities. Coaches are often more than happy to help both parents and children work through any specific situation, whether it’s mastering basic drills for the sport or more specialized assistance to elevate the child to the level of athleticism his peers possess. They can provide extra practice sessions and work both on a one-on-one level and within a team environment. Kids will always feel differently in games than they will in practice, so having a team environment helps make a game feel less intimidating as they’ve built up team camaraderie, and it it’s a good way to build kids’ confidence.

If a child isn’t open to discussing why she want to quit the team, it’s especially important to watch the child and how she interacts with her teammates and coach. I recommend not pushing kids in this situation, and not demanding that they tell us why they don’t want to play a sport. This often makes kids feel as if they’re backed into a corner and have little choice in the matter of whether they can drop the sport or not.

If you both decide your child should quit the team, make sure he has another activity to join so he doesn’t dwell on the decision to stop playing the sport. Joining another team or pursuing another endeavor is a great way for kids to learn first-hand that sometimes things simply aren’t good fits, rather than any fault or shortcoming on the child’s behalf. Giving children options helps broaden horizons and reminds kids of their potential and possibility. It also reminds the child that the parents believe in them.

Coaches and peers are emotional and passionate about their teams, but they will understand if kids feel too uncomfortable to continue playing a sport. It helps best if both kids and parents are open and honest with coaches and their teammates with their reasoning as to why they cannot or do not want to play anymore.

About The Expert:
Shadrach Gonzalez Fher (a.k.a. Coach Fher), founder of Soccer by Coach Fher, through which he oversees a staff of dedicated coaches who offer soccer instruction at schools, churches, and synagogues in New York City. A native of Argentina, Coach Fher has played both collegiate and professional soccer, and is certified in cardio athletic education and as a coach by the Eastern New York Soccer Association Coaching Academy.

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