A couple of weeks ago, my 13-year-old son quit the basketball team in the middle of the season. It made me proud.
Wait a minute. As parents, aren’t we supposed to encourage our kids to never give up? Shouldn’t we be telling them to persevere, and that quitting isn’t the answer? Sure, I can see this perspective. After all, it’s how I was raised, and there are definitely things my parents made me stick out that helped me become a stronger person overall. So, what gives?
I don’t have just one reason to support kids who quit sports — I have six. Here are the reasons I believe that quitting can be a good thing.
1. Because sometimes sticking it out can do more harm than good.
I’m a huge believer in the benefit of sports for kids. From developing teamwork to improved self-esteem, research tells us that sports are good for our youth. However, what about kids that rarely get into the game? Are they still experiencing these benefits? My feeling is no. In fact, I believe it could even hurt their self-esteem overall, making them think they’re somehow lacking. We all know how things from our childhood can stick with us for years — and an 8-year-old shouldn’t have to tough out a poor situation just to make a point.
2. Because inequality in sports is a real thing.
According to statistics, more than 70 percent of kids are quitting sports by the age of 13, and the numbers are even worse in low-income area. If you live in the suburbs, have money, and your dad is the coach (or knows the coach), you probably aren’t too concerned by this — but if you don’t have these advantages, you’re far less likely to thrive or even play in sports.
3. Because youth coaching is often lacking.
We already know that youth sports have been on the decline, and one of the biggest reasons cited is underqualified coaches. Yes, most coaches are volunteers, giving their own time without compensation. I’ve even seen some that truly go above and beyond, giving so much time and attention for the team. However, I’ve also talked to a lot of sports parents who share the same story — over and over — about the dad coaches who put their own kids first at the expense of the team.
4. Because there are so many other options out there.
Let’s say playing time or frustrating coaching isn’t the issue for your child; perhaps he or she just doesn't like the sport. Hey, it happens, and as parents, we have to accept this — even if you were an all-star soccer player and your child now hates soccer. I believe there are way too many other great activities, hobbies, or other sports to check out without spending time on something you don’t like. We aren’t living in a world where there are only a handful of sports available or just a few clubs you can join; this is the era of choices! Encourage your child to try something new. He or she just might be amazing at it.
5. Because standing up for something is also important.
Let’s be honest: Plenty of things about life aren’t right or fair, and this can be the case with your child's experience in youth sports. Instead of making your child stick it out because it “builds character,” let him stand up for what he believes. It can be difficult, and kids often worry about retribution, but give them support. Tell your that child you’re proud of his decision.
6. Because sometimes sports just stop being fun.
The number one reason kids quit playing sports is because it stops being fun. Though it’s sad to think about kids writing off a sport at the age of 13, if the fun it truly gone, then it might be time to find something else — and not beat yourselves up about it.
I’ve been a youth sports player with a starting position, and I’ve also sat on the bench. I’ve also been a youth coach who has dealt with the stress of parents, players, and just getting through the game; it's not easy.
I believe owe our youth a better experience when it comes to sports — an experience that includes equality, better coaching, and games that are actually fun to play. But until then, I’m OK with a quitter.
Stacy Tornio is the author of The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book and the mom of two adventurous kids. Together, they like planning vacations centered around the national parks.