A manual for parents

You parents have got to relax.
Yes, we’re back to the issue of parents and the way they handle themselves when their kid is on the pitch, diamond, rink, or court.
Let’s take a look at what you should say if your kid wants to quit (yes, it can happen).
“Mom, Dad . . . I want to quit. It just isn’t fun anymore.”
Many parents have heard that from their young athlete, but how do you react when your child says he or she has had enough?
The initial reaction might be to go into a “winners never quit, quitters never win” rant. While you want to send the message that quitting is almost never the answer, it’s a difficult situation for everyone involved—and one that often deserves a more thought-out response.
Saying something to the tune of “You’ve really disappointed me and your mother. You’re banned from the family” is probably something you’d want to stay away from.
Quitting a sport is rarely a spontaneous decision, especially as an athlete gets older. Depending on the child, there can be a variety of reasons for their decision—and how you react depends on the nature of those reasons as well as your child’s age.
If your seven-year-old tells you, after playing soccer for just a few weeks, that he doesn’t like it and would like to try football instead, that’s fine. Yes, this is technically quitting the soccer team but at that young age, it’s perfectly understandable for a child to want to sample a variety of sports.
In fact, when children are younger than age 10, hopscotching form one sport to another is commonplace. You should at least mention to your child that quitting a team is not recommended, but in these early years, kids need to experiment with different activities.
When a 10-, 11-, or 12-year-old wants to quit a team or a sport, however, you should remind them—in a reasonable, non-judgmental tone—that they did make a commitment before the season began and that quitting is not something to be taken lightly.
By this age, if the child really wants to leave the squad, he/she should at least be able to articulate the precise reason or reasons why. Simply saying “I’m not having any fun” needs a little more explanation.
Some deeper, less obvious reason probably caused the child to say they’ve had enough. It might be something surprising, such as teasing from a teammate in practice, or perhaps the youngster senses that the coach doesn’t like them.
Whatever it is, it’s up to you to sit down with your child and encourage him/her to open up about the decision. The best thing to ask in this circumstance is simply this: “Why?”
During your talk, it’s good to reinforce the concept of commitment. Good old-fashioned principles like determination and drive always will be the kind of positive life lessons you want your child to take away from playing sports.
So remind them of their commitment to the team, to the coach, and most important, to themselves. Remind them how sports just doesn’t teach them about the rules of the game, but that many items they will face during the course of a season will apply to everyday life once they get older.
They’ll probably feel a lot of guilt over giving it up. On the other hand, they’ll likely develop a sense of accomplishment if they stick it out.
By the time your athlete is in high school, there are few acceptable reasons to quit. For instance, “I want to spend more time with my girlfriend” would not be a good reason to quit a team.
Always remind your sons and daughters at the start of a season that when they try out for a high school team, they are making a serious commitment.
At that level, it usually means practice every day, five days a week, and the team and coaching staff relying on them to be there all the time for the whole season.
I realize the star player rarely quits the team. It’s usually the kid on the bench who works hard in practice but ends up with limited playing time.
He/she often doesn’t get much more than the intrinsic rewards of being part of the team and, for them, it can be difficult to keep their spirits high throughout a long season.
But at some point, the desire to quit a high school team must be outweighed by the importance at the start of the season that he/she had to stick with it no matter what.
Not everything in life is meant to be easy, and backing out is a lose-lose scenario for the child and the team.
So when faced with this kind of situation, don’t be confined to a knee-jerk reaction. Really think about what you want to say to your child, and say it in a way that doesn’t sound like you’re lecturing them (that only will give them more reason to quit).
And even after all that, if they still want to quit, the most important thing is for you to not quit on them.
emoutsatsos@fortfrances.com

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