Quitting a sport
Parents have done anything but quit asking me questions about whether they should let their child quit playing a sport in the middle of a season.
Let me see if I’m game enough to comment on the topic of quitting an activity.
Usually a child who wants to quit a sport or activity has a reason for doing so.
It may be they are just too tired from having too much on their schedule, perhaps they are having a problem with a teammate or coach, or they simply are not enjoying playing that sport or engaging in that activity.
– Before you simply say, sure, you can stop playing the sport and quit the team, talk with your child — not at your child. Ask them in a non-disappointed but curious and calm way why they want to quit so you can help them by better understanding the why.
– For example, if there is a problem with fatigue, talk about what changes in the daily schedule might be made which could potentially include removing that sport, although if you do that, make sure there is still some form of exercise built into your child’s day.
– If there is an issue with a coach or player, help your child figure out how to work through this if possible, and if your child is younger, perhaps offer to talk with the coach.
– If your child is being bullied by another player, work with the coach and maybe the family of the person bullying your child to find ways to remedy that situation.
– If your child simply doesn’t like the sport, ideally it’s good to make an agreement before the season starts that they try the sport or activity for a season or semester and if they don’t like it, they can then step away from it next season. If that agreement wasn’t made, try to encourage finishing that season as a compromise to not doing it again next year or hear what the substitute sport or activity might be that they want to do instead and have your child move in that direction.
After the emotions of wanting to quit have stopped percolating, you can readdress the decision to quit as an example as to how to make better decisions the next time so you and your child can learn together from the experience.
For example, overencouraging or pushing your child to try a sport or activity because you liked it, may not be the best way to ensure your child will like that activity as much as you did – but it opens the door to finding out what your child wants to do even if you never did that activity yourself growing up.
Hopefully, tips like these will not quit on you when it comes to helping your child reflect and better deal with their desire to quit a sport or activity.
Lewis First, MD, is Chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and NBC5.