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What to do when kids quit sports
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The call an umpire makes in a close game pales in comparison to the call parents often must make when their child wants to quit sports.
Sports can teach youth teamwork, coordination, discipline and many other life skills. Early involvement in sports can set them on the road to life-long physical fitness and introduce them to something they'll continue to enjoy the rest of their life. Sports is also a great way to meet new people and make friends.
But sometimes it just doesn't seem to work out and for whatever reason, the young athlete wants to call it quits. Louise Davis, child and family development specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said it's a question of balance in the child's life. Parents must know their child well to be able to make decisions on what's best for them.
"Sometimes you have a child who finds that nothing suits them. Somewhere along the line you have to teach them perseverance," Davis said. "If they just don't like the coach, they still need to learn how to deal with that situation."
Davis said things often don't go as planned or wanted in life, and well-adjusted youth learn early to work around the unpleasantness. Sports can help teach this valuable lesson.
"There are a lot of things you can teach children at a time when things aren't going their way," Davis said.
When the child complains about the sport, she said parents should neither believe everything the child says nor insist there is not problem. When a child adamantly insists they don't want to participate in a sport, parents should investigate the cause.
Before signing a child up for a sport, parents need to do some homework of their own. Make sure the child is physically able to handle the requirements of the sport before letting the child try it. Start practicing some of the sport's basic skills at home before the season starts.
Also, determine if the child's personality and interests match the sport being considered. Not every child is suited to playing T-Ball, soccer or whatever is the community's most popular youth sport. Look at some type of physical activity other than competitive sports, such as martial arts or horseback riding.
"Before you choose the sport, consider if the activity matches the child's interests, personality and ability. Parents can work with the child beforehand to determine if this is something the child wants to do," Davis said.
But Davis cautioned against letting the child make all the decisions.
"At some point, the parent needs to decide what's good for the child and insist that they follow through with it," Davis said. "The child needs to be truly interested in the sport and should stick with it until the end of the season. If they still insist they're not enjoying the sport, parents can then let them switch to something else."
Lorna Rosson, a Starkville parent, allowed her son to quit baseball when he was 11 and switch to Taekwondo. She did insist that he finish out the baseball season before he left the team.
"I believe you should teach children to fulfill their commitments, but anytime a child's interest wanes, they should be allowed to quit the sport at the end of the season," Rosson said.
She praised sports that lend themselves to children being able to take a leave of absence and rejoin later when they are interested again.
"Sometimes children just need time off from a sport, not to quit entirely," Rosson said.