It’s not uncommon for children to go through a phase of wanting to quit a sport they previously loved. This can come as a shock to some parents and leave them confused about how to re-engage their child back into the sport, or if they even should.
More often than not, it is far more beneficial to encourage a child to stick with their sporting commitments than to let them quit. Some of these benefits happen as a result of seeing something through even when they really don’t want to do it anymore.
Michelle Obama once famously, and rather controversially, revealed that she has a rule for both of her daughters when it comes to extracurricular activities. They are forced to choose two sports: one of their liking and one that she selects for them.
“I want them to understand what it feels like to do something you don’t like and to improve,” she said. “Because in life you don’t always get to do the things you want.”
This perseverance increases self-esteem, nurtures a positive mind-set and instils confidence and resilience in a young person.
Growth as an athlete
In an ideal world, we would all take up any sport of our choice and become increasingly better at it until we are top of our game. This isn’t quite how it works in real life, however, and many young people feel like throwing in the towel when they hit a plateau in their improvement. Pushing through this stage is where the real growth begins for a lot of people. Future athletes are made when a person continues to keep getting back up and trying again.
Learning life coping skills
Anxiety is on the rise in our youth today and can play a big part in why a child may want to quit a sport. Giving up too easily can set the child up for a lifetime of thinking the only option when anxiety rears its head is to walk away. The best thing to do is to teach them ways to cope with anxiety, such as calming techniques, and prep them with lifelong skills they can use in all future situations.
It’s all about the fun
According to a study by the University of Washington, 9 out of 10 kids say the main reason they participate in a sport is that it’s fun. While this alone may not come as a surprise, the interesting thing was when the kids were asked to define what ‘fun’ meant to them. They came up with 81 different statements and then ranked these in order of importance. Surprisingly, ‘winning’ only came in at a low #48. The top statements were;
- trying your best
- when a coach treats the players with respect
- getting playing time
- playing well together as a team
Once a sport stops being fun for a child, they tend to lose interest in playing at all. Here are some tips on how to keep it enjoyable and encourage them to stick with it:
Enrol in a sport they love
The first step is to find a sport they love. It can be hard to do this if they’ve never played different sports before, which is where places like Camp Blue are perfect. Kids can try a variety of sports without committing to a whole season or paying for uniforms and registrations.
Play at the right skill level
Playing at a level that is way above your child’s skill runs the risk that they will lose confidence and feel bad about themselves. If they are the worst player on the team or a tournament by a long shot, or if they are never allowed off the bench to play, they will begin to detest the sport. Kids enjoy participating more than they enjoy winning. A sportsmanship study by the Josephson Institute of Ethics found that while high school athletes value winning, they would still much prefer to play for a losing team than sit on the bench for a winning team.
Don’t compare to others
It’s great to discuss your child’s sports games with them but try your hardest not to compare them to the other kids. Everyone plays at different skill levels at different stages of their life and each person needs to forge their own path in the sporting arena.
Kids love it when their parents take an interest in their activities, but that will sour quickly if the interest becomes overbearing or critical. A child will become a far better athlete if they are allowed to make mistakes than if they are too scared to put a foot wrong.
Sport benefits an adolescent’s physical and mental health, social wellbeing and keeps them off their devices. Each child is different, and quitting shouldn’t be immediately dismissed without some discussion, but often the above-mentioned benefits are well worth pushing through the quitting stage.