Tips for Parents Whose Child Wants to Quit Sports

Millions of girls stop playing sports by the time they are teenagers. Though this phenomenon is an ongoing research project, there are several known reasons girls want to quit sports.

Here is a short list:

  • They don’t like to be yelled at by coaches.
  • They don’t like how serious it is.
  • They lack confidence.
  • They are afraid they’ll be judged and no longer accepted if they make a mistake.
  • They are tired of their parents putting pressure on them.
  • They don’t want to invest that much time into practice.
  • They discover something else that ignites their passion more.
  • They feel like they are not good enough.

No matter what the reason, sometimes parents are not aware of this change. It is easy to get wrapped up in the fast-paced club and high school sports seasons. Many parents envision their daughter playing college sports long before their daughter shows any desire to do so.

One of the most challenging roles of a parent, with a child playing sports, is to let the child drive their development and hunger to play. Sometimes the child’s interests and desires get lost in the process, as the parents hope to secure a college roster spot. 

As parents navigate this challenging, but exciting time, it may be helpful to check in with your daughter to make sure she is enjoying the experience. Whatever the experience and whatever outcomes and opportunities present themselves, as a result, should be in alignment with her desires and interests in sports.

Dad and daughter watching sports together while daughter is holding soccer ball

Tips for Parents

What can parents do to stay aware?  Sometimes the student athlete just comes right out and tells her parents she no longer wants to participate. That makes it a little easier. But what if she isn’t saying anything? How do parents know?

Ask Questions

Communication about sports and college is always a good thing. Ask her if she still enjoys playing her sport. This could tell you right away if she wants to continue playing or not. Allow her to answer how she truly feels and just acknowledge her without interrupting or trying to change her mind if her answer is not what you want to hear.

If her answer confirms that she does want to play, but it’s not convincing, she may simply not want to let you down. You are her role model. Let her know that it is safe to talk to you about how she feels. It may lead to more conversations.

Look for Changes

No one knows your child better than you. Pay attention to changes in her actions, words, and behaviors.

Has her mood changed when talking about sports? Does she no longer want to watch sports? Does she seem frustrated or depressed about her sport and how she is performing? 

On the other hand, she may not want to play and can’t find the courage to tell you. Either way, she needs your support.

Other changes to recognize include not sleeping or eating well, not wanting to talk about the coach or team, not wanting to go on trips, etc. 

Check Her Reaction to the Process

The recruiting process is not easy and it can be draining on the student athlete. What is her approach?

If she is not interested in taking visits to college campuses, talking about sports in college, watching sports, or contemplating the recruiting process when you bring it up, this could be a sign she is losing interest, especially if the desire was there prior.

If she avoids the conversation with you altogether, about the recruiting process, this could be a sign of disinterest, and she may be just waiting for the right time to tell you.

Young African American tennis player sitting on a bench with bag, racket and phone

What Can Parents Do When She Wants to Quit?

Parents inevitably spend a lot of money. They carpool their children around to different practice and competition sites. They usually develop a new group of friends because of the shared experience with other parents. And then some will find out, their daughter no longer wants to play? 

What can they do?

Support Her

She does not want to let you down and probably feels like she has. She needs your support while she figures out what she wants to do.

Encourage Her

You never know if she is quitting for good or just taking a break. She may not know at this point. If you encourage her to take her time on the decision and continue to communicate about it, without forcing the issue, she may eventually find her reason to play again.

Allow Her to Be

If she feels safe with you, chances are she’ll continue to share how she is feeling. If she knows you care, she is going to figure it out a lot earlier than if she does not feel that you do. Listen to her and be compassionate.

Hold Back Judgment

Let her know you still love and support her whether she continues to play or not. That may be all she needs to hear. When parents show disappointment, it adds to the pressure, anxiety, and frustration that the child is already experiencing.

Make Sure It’s Nothing Else

Many times, young girls quit because of something that happened either with a coach or with a teammate. If she was mistreated by a coach, even if it’s only her perception of being mistreated, she needs your shoulder. This may require communication with the coach or with members of her team. Either way, she’ll need a listening ear.

Parents Matter

You probably mean the world to your daughter. She looks to you for support, encouragement, and love. The most important thing you can do for her is just to be there. Let her do most of the talking and figure out what is best for her. 

Sometimes you don’t even have to say anything. Just giving her a hug could make all the difference when she is unsure about whether to play sports. 

When she knows you have her support, no matter what she chooses, the decision will be easier.  

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