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Should you pull your teen from the team?

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...

Just can't handle it all

Youth sports is a meaningful part of many kids’ lives, but not every experience is positive.

Especially for teens, there often is significant stress associated with participation, the impact of team/coaching dynamics, and balancing life. Some teens handle such pressure well — and some don’t. Should you pull him from the team?

Whether to pull your child from a sports team is a big decision, and often a difficult one. There are valid reasons for a parent to pull a child out of a team, and just as many invalid ones. From bullying to playing time, consider your reasons carefully, problem solve if you can, and then act accordingly.

Before the season begins

Before the first practice begins, set clear expectations with your child. Talk about team commitments, academic and home life expectations, necessary communication and physical impact. Laurie Richter, sports mom and author of Put Me in, Coach and The Recruiting Companion for College Sports, notes that, "Parents are always trying to balance two seemingly opposite values: making sure our children know that once they commit to something, they should see it through, and making sure they are being treated fairly and safely. But make no mistake, there are situations when a child should be pulled."

Richter continues, "With your child, you should set the ground rules before they join the team. They should know that once they make the commitment, there are only a few circumstances in which they can quit."

Yes, pull him

Reasons to pull your child from a team include:

Emotional

If your child is being bullied, whether by coaches or other players, or if you see uncharacteristic emotional meltdowns and outbursts at home or at school, investigate.

Academic

If your child’s academic performance falls off a cliff as the season starts, the team might be too much right now. If school is the priority in your home, the sport should go.

Physical

If your child’s physical health is threatened by over-fatigue or playing with or too soon after an injury (including concussion).

No, back off

Reasons to see a commitment through include:

He just doesn’t like it: If your child decides he just doesn’t like the team after all, you have a teachable moment about commitment and follow-through. Reiterate the discussion you had at the start of the season.
You don’t like the coach or think your child deserves more playing time: Who is playing the game? Not you. If your child is enjoying the team, your personal feelings about the coach or playing experience needs to take a back seat.

Problem-solve first

Trying to resolve the issue first can teach kids critical problem-solving skills. If the issues are academic, try helping your child with time-management and prioritization of tasks. If the issue is interpersonal, try to coach the child through the situation before stepping in. If the issue is medical or injury related, seek the advice of a trusted medical professional.

Acting on your decision

If you believe that pulling your child from a team is the right thing to do, then do it. Psychologist John Morella, PhD, author of Give Teens a Break!, says, "A youngster's participation in a sports team is for the multi-purpose benefit of the youth, not the parents, coach, or even the win/loss record of the sport. Exercise, socialization, perceptual/motor development, ethical rules of competition and companionship are all great benefits. But when the child, parent or coaches violate these benefits, the child's participation should be questioned."

First, talk with your child about the decision. Your child may be upset — or relieved! Remember you are the parent and your decision stands.

And the coach? According to Morella, "Arrange a private time with the coach and explain the sincere reasons for the removal of your child. There is no need to apologize to the coach. You know your child better than the coach."

More on kids and sports

Team sports: How kids benefit from organized athletics
How far should you push kids at sports?
Be a sports role model for your kids

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