Anyone who played a team sport while growing will either look back remembering it fondly or cringe at the thought. Often, we enroll our kids in after school activities with the best intentions in mind, without thinking about the toll it could be taking on them. While a lot of kids absolutely love being part of a sports team, a lot of them feel the exact opposite. So when is it okay to let your child quit the team?
CEO and co-founder of Youth Athletes United, a national youth sports organization that aims to encourage kids to participate in athletics, Adam Geisler shared: “If it’s a great experience, that kid will stay in sports much longer. If it’s a bad experience, that kid may decide I never want to do soccer, baseball, or tennis or golf ever again.”
He said that introducing a child to sports is not only an opportunity but also a big responsibility. He highlights the fact that it is very important to integrate kids properly to sports so that they can enjoy them rather than feel stressed out. He says that a big part of this has to do with the age in which kids are introduced to sports.
Geisler believes that up to age 6, play should be “unintentional” and while they can be exposed to sports, they should not yet be competitive and should only be focused on fun, positivity, and moving around.
He shared: “If they are into sports, at 6 years old, then you actually want them to move into what’s called intentional play, and to make that decision on their own… that the child wants to do.” This will usually have a better success rate and will prevent your child from quitting since it was their choice in the first place, meaning they were developmentally ready to participate in this setting. Sometimes it really is all about timing.
Of course it’s important to take your child’s needs into consideration when they want to quit, but Geisler says that sports help kids learn “physical literacy,” that help them create healthy habits that can be carried on with them for the rest of their lives.
Setting expectations from the start can help, according to Lynn Lyons, LCSW, psychotherapist, and author of The Anxiety Audit. She says: “You can agree that you both will try it out as an experiment. Maybe you agree that they will go to four practices before quitting.”
Lyons continues: “If you are making an investment in equipment, then perhaps you tell them ahead of time that the expectation is that they finish out the season. Seeing something through is another good skill, the same as if they had a part in a play or agreed to feed the neighbor’s cat for 2 weeks.”
Another important point that Geisler brings up is that if your child is begging to quit, you should get to the bottom line of why exactly. He says Are they not getting enough playing time? Are they not having fun? If there are barriers we can help remove and keep them at it we should, but we should never force our kids into staying in a sport if they’re not happy.”
For younger kids, Geisler suggests picking sports that are shorter in length, about six weeks long, which will give them a good idea of whether they’re interested in the sport without going on for too long in case they don’t.