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Should you let your child quit sports?

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Too much pressure

You have an athletically gifted child who has a passion for a particular sport. You've invested years of time, money, and emotional and physical energy to support your child's athletic endeavors. Your child is at the top of his or her game and only getting better. But one day, your child announces he or she wants to quit. What's going on here?

Child-athlete-crying

It can seem to have come out of the blue, your child' announcement that they want to quit the sport they have been committed to and loved for years. And maybe it was out of the blue, or maybe it wasn't. For all the supporting you've done as a parent in helping your star athlete of a child reach sporting heights, now it's time to step back with your child and figure out what is going on - and keep supporting.

Oh, the pressure

As fun as we think it may be, there is pressure involved in high levels of athletic success, even at young ages. There is pressure from coaches, teammates, parents, peers, and others to always be "the best." There is also often pressure from oneself not to let these people down. It can be intense for any person, and especially a young person. As much as they love a sport or a game, this pressure can be overwhelming. As some point, your child may feel like they just can't do it any more, and want to just plain stop.

A break? Or is it over?

As a parent, you need to take your child's stated desire to quit seriously. Whether they "mean" it or not, they mean they need some help managing the pressures - and they need you to be in their corner, literally and figuratively, on this issue even more than they need coaching fees paid and new cleats.

Take some time to talk about what your child is feeling and how those feelings developed into this desire to quit. Put anything sports related on hold, and be there for your child as he or she tries to manage the emotions and the pressure. Try to help discern what they mean when they say "quit." It may really mean quitting and putting away the gear, or it may mean a serious, reflective break, or perhaps a simple step back in intensity. No matter what it means, your support is critical.

Bringing the fun back

Whether this is a break or quitting outright, you can help put the fun back in your child's sporting life. When your child is ready to, talk about what they still like about the sport and make an effort to get back to that early fun. Perhaps it's just playing catch in the backyard without any coaching at all, or some other effort to keep the air light and less-pressured.

If it truly is a quitting situation, don't force this issue. Whatever it is, your supoort of you child's needs in navigating the stress is essential.

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