Mom and Dad, I Don't Want to PLAY Anymore


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Quitters NEVER win.....and Winners NEVER quit!

If this is the case, and I've been told this over and over again...why are so many of our youth quitting sports in record numbers? Children quitting organized sports occurs more often than one might think. Research has shown that approximately 70-75% of children will quit playing a sport by the age of 14. Why in the world would they EVER want to stop?


Below is a story printed back in 2008, 5 years ago, entitled, "Why They Stop." I've cut and pasted and added some commentary but for the most part, the original article remains. To summarize, us adults are doing a poor job (youth coaches and parents alike) to keep our kids out, playing sport. Until we realize this fact, we're going to hear this statement more and more,"Mom and Dad, I don't want to PLAY anymore."...... and we'll only have ourselves to blame.


Why They Stop 
August 27, 2008 10:00 PM 
By Vince Ganzberg, Director of Education for Indiana Youth Soccer, proud member of US Youth Soccer

"Mom and Dad, I don't want to play anymore!"

After investing the time and money into any sport, this is the last thing a parent wants to hear, but it happens. Frequently.

Research has shown that approximately 70-75% of children will quit playing a sport by the age of 14. Why do they want to stop? To answer that question let's look at why they start or why parents put their children into a sport in the first place.

  1. Competence (learning and improving)
  2. Affiliation (Being a part of something like a team or a club)
  3. Fitness (agility, balance, coordination, and physical health)
  4. Fun (This is the overwhelming reason why children play sports)

Notice that "winning" is not one of the reasons.


Let's get into why they stop. Research says children stop playing sports for a variety of reasons. Six of the seven primary reasons are "ADULT CONTROLLED" behaviors. Can you guess which one isn't?

• Lack of Playing Time

• Overemphasis on Winning

• Other Activities are more interesting

• Lack of Fun

• Coaching/Adult Behaviors

• Dissatisfaction with Performance

• Lack of Social Support

If you guessed "Other activities are more interesting" then you are correct! Give yourself a pat on the back. There are times when a child just finds something new that they really like. The rest of the reasons are adult controlled behaviors. When adult controlled behaviors are forcing children out of a sport, adults are putting themselves before the needs and development of children.


Lack of Playing Time 
This is an adult controlled behavior due to the coaches and parents wanting to "win" the game. Do players want to win? Absolutely! They all strive to do their very best to win. Research has also shown that children today would rather play than sit the bench for a winning team. Coaches, allow your players to play in the game for their own sake. As a coach you need to see their "soul" on the field and allow them to get into the game so they can get better. Not putting children into a game is like not allowing them to take a test in school. There is nothing wrong with having some players earning more time, but all players should be given a minimum time to play.


Overemphasis on Winning 
So many coaches feel as though their whole self-worth is out there on the field, and if they don't win as coaches, then "they" not the children are a failure. The same goes for adults on the sidelines. A recently statistic showed that 25% of coaches quit due to adult expectations with regard to outcome. The late Bill Walsh stated that "Twenty percent of every game is by chance." As a coach or parent, sometimes you can't control the outcome. If it is the other team's day, it's simply their day!

Give them the game, and let them determine the outcome!


Lack of Fun 
Children view sports differently than adults. Most children, if not all, start playing a sport because it looks fun. So, let them play! "Over the past two decades, children have lost twelve hours of free time a week, including eight hours of unstructured play outdoor activities. The amount of time children spend in organized sports has doubled, and the number of minutes children devote to passive spectator leisure, not counting television but including sports viewing has increased fivefold from thirty minutes to over three hours," (Elkind, 1).

It is a different world we live in now. As a coach, you can give them some of that "free time" back by allowing them to play as soon as they arrive. I observed a club who does this, and their players are begging their parents to get them to training early because they know they get to play the game at the beginning.The game is the best teacher; so as a coach, allow them to play and express themselves and to have FUN!


Coaching/Adult Behaviors 
For some reason, some adults and coaches transform from Winnie the Pooh to a grizzly bear when a game rolls around. Everything from yelling at officials' bad calls to conversing with parents from the other team is widely seen throughout youth sports. 
Be a role model for your child. Try to view a game like a "grandparent." They just want to go and see their grandchild be happy. Let's take a lesson from this. They have been there, done that. Experience is a great teacher. As a parent you want to see a child's "soul" when they are out on the field and not just their face. Kids can only play freely when we, as adults, allow them to control their own destiny.

The numbers don't lie, only a small percentage of players will go on to play in college, and even fewer than that will play at the professional level. Refer back to the reason why you enrolled your child in a sport in the first place. I am sure for the majority of you; it was for one the four reasons at the beginning of this article – competence, affiliation, fitness or fun. Please remember that your child is not you! Your childhood is over - give your kids the game.


Dissatisfaction with Performance 
Stay away from "PGA" or Post Game Analysis in the minivan/SUV after the match. Coaches, stay away from the "PGA" closing statements after a tough loss. Children know when they make a mistake in a match. Repeating it again verbally isn't the answer. Try to shift gears and turn a negative into a positive. Let it go, and make sure that they know you still love them no matter how many mistakes they make. There is a reason why the X Games are popular with children. The most prevalent is that they can determine their own outcome, be creative, and make mistakes, without anyone analyzing their performance.


Lack of Social Support 
There is "tough" love and there is "TOUGH" love. Most athletes that make it to the next level mention how their parents and coaches gave them "tough" love but were supportive of them every step of the way.

Be there for your players through the tough times and the good. It is easy to be supportive of them after a victory, a game winning goal or an important save. Remind your children that tough times don't usually last, but tough people do.When children feel abandoned by their parents/coaches that is when they often go to something else. Sometimes, that something else isn't a positive activity.

We all can help create a better environment to make sure that children begin playing and keep playing, staying active, keeping healthy, and making them lifelong participants in athletics.

Have Fun!

Elkind, David, Ph.D. 2007. ""The Power Of Play: how spontaneous, imaginative activities lead to happier, healthier children"". Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.