Is playing sports your child’s dream or yours?
As springtime rolls around every year, I look forward to nicer weather and getting to enjoy more outdoor activities. I’m a huge sports fan so whether it’s baseball, sand volleyball or softball, I love a great springtime game.
As a dad, this time of year can be a great time for enjoying all of these fun sports with your kids, but if your adolescent is a new or returning athlete, it could spell some unforeseen challenges for you.
Kids that enter the youth sports leagues during their middle school years usually end up at a crossroads at some point as to whether or not they are going to stick with it or not. There are many pressures that weigh on their decision to continue on with a sport as they move on to high school. They will either decide they want to quit or push ahead through whatever challenges lay ahead.
If you, as a dad, are prepared for the “Q” word to come from them, then you are more likely to know exactly what they are thinking and be better able to talk with them about this important decision.
Here are 5 important and helpful mindsets to have when you are faced the tough conversation when your adolescent wants to quit a sport.
1. Find out why they want to quit.
That may sound like a simple task, but in reality, it’s probably going to require some tactful digging on your part to get to the real reason(s).
Adolescents are in such huge transitions physically, mentally and emotionally that there could literally be a list of reasons why he or she is wanting to quit the team.
It’s up to you to ask the right questions, without shutting them down, to get to the real reasons or issues prompting their decision.
2. Overreacting is not going to help.
Depending on how invested you are as a dad in your son or daughter staying on the team, it can be really tempting to overreact to their decision to quit the team.
It’s completely understandable to have a strong reaction, because, in reality, you have made a considerable time, money and energy investment in them being on the team.
Then there’s the concern you may be experiencing over how to parent them through this decision to quit or not to quit, and it can become a trigger for you to have a parent sized reaction.
Maybe you start hearing those voices from your own past saying things like, “We never quit in this family!” or “Winners never quit and quitters never win!”
Whatever the case, there is a balance between our kids having legitimate issues fueling their desire to quit versus them having a poor work ethic and being labeled a “quitter.”
3. Get the perspective of the coach.
After you’ve talked with your adolescent about their reasons for wanting to quit, sometimes those reasons involve how they get along with the coach, the dynamics of other members of the team, or even how they perceived their athletic ability in comparison to other team members.
There can be a huge range of reasons that young adolescents and teens can have for wanting to quit that are connected in some way to the coach or teammates.
Keep in mind that your adolescent’s perception of what is happening is also their reality.
Having a talk with the coach and getting their perspective, will at least, provide you with a different vantage point on what is actually happening.
Two important reminders here…
The way you approach the coach to gain his/her perspective will set the tone of the conversation and how much quality feedback you receive.
Remember, no matter what your son or daughter told you, approaching the coach with an accusatory tone will not keep the communication lines open.
You may discover fairly quickly when you talk to the coach that any negative perceptions your adolescent shared with you about the coach are actually very true. Unfortunately, not all sports coaches are self-aware enough to take corrective feedback from parents and they can be very defensive about their coaching methods and practices.
I was a school principal and superintendent for many years and supervised some amazing coaches. But, sad to say, I also had my fair share of those who had issues of their own and brought those into their coaching responsibilities. Those situations never end well for anyone.
4. Pick your battles.
Once you’ve asked your adolescent their reasons for wanting to quit and you’ve also gotten the perspective of the coach, you are in a much better position to make a decision.
If the sports season hasn’t started yet, the decision may be a little more simple. But if the season has started, and, even more time, money and energy has been invested, it tends to make the decision to allow them to quit a little more complicated.
If you decide to let them quit, there are some things that you can do and say that will help you if you are still hearing those “you can’t be a quitter” voices in your head.
• Don’t immediately sign them up for something else to do.
• Remind them they can always try again later.
• Don’t push them to start again too soon.
• When the time is right, suggest alternatives.
If your decision is to not let then quit, there are some equally important reminders.
• Keep monitoring the situation to make sure that your adolescent is handling the pressures of being on a team in healthy ways.
• Don’t be so committed to your initial decision to not let them quit that you won’t change your mind later if things don’t turn out well.
• Be an encourager and an advocate for your adolescent no matter what.
Keep your own self-awareness high to ensure that your reasons for not letting them quit are solid and not based on your own limiting beliefs.
5. Never Quit!
It may seem ironic in a conversation about how to parent your child when they want to quit to say to you, “never quit!” But, what I mean is, as a dad, never quit on being willing to do the hard work of getting beyond surface reasons and excuses in the life of your adolescents.
Never quit being their biggest fan and loudest encourager.
And, trust me, it’s hard work.
Many times, they will put up road blocks, diversions, decoys and steel walls to keep you from knowing what is really going on deep down inside of their thoughts.
But your strong connection with them, even during what is sometimes tough and challenging years, will serve as a time tested foundation for your relationship with them that will last for many years to come.
Whether or not your adolescent decides to quit or stay in the game, as a dad, you can offer some very valuable life coaching through the entire decision-making process.
Our kids’ lives are full of choices and decisions. Our role as a parent is to teach them how to be great decision makers so that they will have a positive tool set for making the really tough decisions as they enter young adulthood.
No one ever said being a parent was going to be easy, but the rewards far outweigh the challenges when we arm ourselves with healthy mindsets and behaviors.
So whether you’re enjoying the game from the stands while watching your adolescent play in the game or the two of you are enjoying being spectators together, they know you’re their biggest fan!!