WHY DO CHILDREN QUIT SPORTS?
There really is just one straight forward answer to this. THEY DO NOT ENJOY IT ANYMORE!!
Obviously, there are a lot of reasons why they come to that decision. Ultimately, it boils down to the part mentioned above; It is not FUN anymore. According to research by National Alliance for Sport a staggering 70% of children quit sports by the age of 13. So, to , put in perspective: If your son or daughter is playing for a soccer team; 7 out of 10 of that team will quit before they reach the age of 13.
If we take this back to a business environment if 70% of shoppers walk out of a shop each day saying that this is not for me. Then surely that business owner will re-evaluate their business processes or go bankrupt. Then why are we not doing the same with our Youth?
We as parents together with the coaches, are mainly to blame for this. Unfortunately, it is human nature to want ourselves or our kids to excel, to be the best, to be the alpha. Ultimately, we are letting our own egos and aspirations lead to our children’s decision to quit.
I know we invest a lot of money, time, and emotions in the development of our kids. As a result of this, we want to see them succeed. Unfortunately, the reason we enrolled our kids in the first place, somehow gets misplaced or forgotten when they start showing progress.
SO, WHY DO CHILDREN QUIT SPORTS?
- Here are some of the more obvious reasons:
CULTURE DOESN’T SUPPORT RECREATIONAL PLAY
Unfortunately, there is no more space for mediocre participants. The Fun factor is not allowed anymore because this is serious stuff.But, what does this mean, it means that in our society there is no place to PLAY sports. We overemphasize the end goal.
End Goals might differ from household to household, but ultimately there is an end goal. Some parent and coaches just want to be state champions, some want to get that College scholarship, and some want to go to the Olympics. The fact that society does not allow the fun factor is getting more and more prominent. What is the first question you are asked when you tell someone your child took part in a competition? Surely it is something in the line of, how did he do? Or how did it go? Never will the first response be; did he or she enjoy it?
Burnout is a condition of psychological, emotional, and sometimes physical withdrawal from sports participation, mainly because of stress.
Youth Sports participants are expected to put in much more time in the sport they chose than before. It is not uncommon to see a youth teams practicing 4 days a week and then go on to play one or two games over the weekend. Then there are children playing on multiple teams for the same sport. According to an article by Huffingtonpost.com
“The issue of coaches and parents obsessing about all-state-teams, scholarships and pro contracts has become so commonplace that psychiatrists have dubbed the condition Achievement by proxy syndrome.
Studies have shown that children specializing in one specific sport before the age of 16, experience more overuse injuries as well as emotional burnout. Burnout can be part of a spectrum of conditions which includes overreaching and overtraining syndrome.”
I think the CAR RIDE HOME, has ruined more relationships between parents and children because of the blurred lines, than anything else. When the kids ride home, they are in a confined space, no escape, nowhere to go. Somehow the parents always think this is the perfect time to reevaluate the whole game. Most of the times the child just lost a match or game and is in no mood for this conversation.
This is usually also the place where the parent will start using emotional tactics, like: “I see that you like wasting your time. Wasting your time is one thing, but wasting my time is a completely different matter”, or “So the fact that you wanted to hang out more with your friends last week, rather than train, came to show clearly in your game today. Are you sure you still want to do this?”
The best time to talk to your child about the game is not the car ride home. This is especially true if the child had a really terrible game.
OVEREMPHASIS ON WINNING
Think about this; if you make winning very, very important, then will the opposite, loosing, not be just or more important? If you take the fun part out of the sport, then kids do not want to participate. Overemphasizing winning will just put extra pressure on them, and probably have the opposite effect than what you expected. Parents do not really want to be the evil guy, not allowing their children to have fun. However, it usually starts happening when the parents really get passionate about the sport, and their child’s success in the specific sport.
Remember if we make a big deal of losing, it will probably not make them try harder. Kids often will rather avoid the situation where they might lose than to train harder. Talent is irrelevant as well as training if your child is oversensitive to winning or losing. The fact is, he or she will probably be so focused on not losing, that he or she will forget all the training that was put in.
COACHING OR ADULT BEHAVIOR
Unfortunately, Coaches and parents are probably the biggest reason for children not enjoying their sports anymore. Although we must realize that the primary role of a Coach is to get the most out of a team or individual. After all, that is what he is getting paid for, right? The same cannot be said about parents, their primary responsibility is to look after the well-fare of their child. This being said, a Coach can still have an extremely negative effect on children and be contributing to a child making the decision to quit.
Unfortunately, the lines sometimes also get a bit blurred, and the coaches seem to overstep their role. This especially comes into play when the coach promotes unfair play, Violence, or just about anything goes attitude, just to claim the victory. In my previous Blog YOUTH SPORTS AND MISTAKES PARENTS MAKE, I wrote some of the mistakes parents make in youth sports, contributing to the child’s decision to quit.
Coaches probably have the biggest role in your child’s sports development, to make it more enjoyable or the opposite. Unfortunately, it’s seen way to often that the coach also only focuses on the talented or the children that perform. On the other hand, the children that are not up to scratch yet, or will never be, are too often maid the ridicule of the group. It should never be allowed that a coach makes a participant in any sport, feel mediocre or inferior to others in the group.
NO SOCIAL LIFE
When children reach a certain age, and this is usually around the age of 13 or 16, the Social part of their life becomes much more important than before. This is usually also the time that parents expect their children to go to the next level of competing or training. This is also the time when children, parents, and coaches start bumping heads, which then lead to the next obvious result .. quitting.
We as parents should always remember what it was like at that age, there is also a lot of social pressure on children. Social acceptance will seem much more serious to them at that age, than anything else. This is usually one of the biggest reasons Teenagers quit, especially if they have been participating since a young age, and were never allowed any kind of social life. It is almost as if they want to give it one final go, to be accepted in a social structure.
Parents need to be very careful how they approach this situation, because the child will use any reason, and throw it back at them to quit if you do not allow them some sort of social life. There should always be a balance, try and compromise. Take the calendar, and sit together, really mark the important dates, and let the others slide. Be sure to involve the youngster so that he or she, feel they were part of the decision.
EXPECTATIONS FROM PARENTS AND COACHES
This is a very difficult one because we all have high expectations for our children. We have dreams, aspirations, and goals. Likewise, the coach will also have certain expectations, especially if the child is gifted. However, we need to keep in mind that there is something like too much, too high, too soon.
We need to keep in mind that this is just youth sports, some children never make it to college or professional sports, and we need to realize that our child might be one of them. You need to have an open conversation with your child and coach, align your expectations, short, medium, and long-term. Remember it is an open conversation.
It is important to keep your expectations at the level where he or she is participating at the moment. It is not fair to your child, to expect the same results that a professional athlete is getting, from a 13-year-old child. Remember to also manage the expectations from the coach, if your goal is NOT to win Regional this year, then tell him. Also, it is important to set shorter goals. The BIG goal might just seem too far, or out of reach, if you keep on throwing it in their face. Your child will see that as an impossible goal to reach and might quit. Especially if you make it be, the ultimate and only goal.
In conclusion, I want to add that it is never too late, even if he or she has already quit. The wrongs can always be right. If you see yourself somewhere here, or your child somewhere here. Stop re-evaluate the situation, and rectify it now. Sport is meant to be fun, somewhere, somehow, when money got involved, the whole pictured changed.
Don’t get caught up in the glamour and hype of the “game” and “fame”. Your first priority should always be to your child. Just imagine how much he or she will miss out of because they quit. Most parents whose children quit say afterward they were wrong and got caught up, and they wish they could go back, and change things. Those same parents also say, that if their child would just compete for fun, and leave the competitive side, they would be ecstatic, rather than them quitting.
Remember, sports are supposed to be fun for youth, and not a sentence in their life. Do not be the reason, or part of the reason, that your child quit Youth sports!
Enjoy your child in Youth Sports responsibly.