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Ask the Parent Coach: When Your Child Wants to Quit a Sport

Published on: December 30, 2013


Each week, we'll be featuring a Q&A series with Jennifer Watanabe; the Parent Coach at Youth Eastside Services. Got your own parenting questions that you'd love to have answered? Email us at

Q: My 10-year-old son is a great soccer player and made the Select team. But now he's become interested in tennis and wants to give up soccer. He made a commitment to the team — do I insist he continue to play?

A: Your son seems to have a keen interest in sports.  His wavering attention now as to which specific sport to play may have more to do with what is required to participate than it has to do with talent.  Being on a select team can be different than playing for fun or for exercise.  Here are some differences to consider from your son’s perspective as to why he may not want to continue with the select team:

Select Soccer Team Negatives

- A large time commitment and perhaps the exclusions of other activities that he enjoys.

- Possible intimidation by the team's other high-ability players; or the worry of disappointing you.

- It could be that it's just not fun for him anymore, and that it seems more like a chore.

- The extra pressure from coaches, parents, and teammates on his performance  — many select teams require a big time and money commitment for the whole family.

- Your son may not get to play with the same group of friends that he might be playing with in tennis.

Tennis Rec Team Positives

- Tennis will most likely be less of a time commitment.

- Tennis could be more welcoming and feel more encouraging of a new player wanting to learn the sport.

- It may seem exciting since the sport is brand new to him.

- Your son could feel more accepted as a new player -- or relieved that he doesn't have to perform at a high level to be accepted.

- He may like the friends he plays with in tennis more than the soccer friends.

The above possibilities are a worst-case scenario for the select team and a best-case one for tennis. If your son does not want to play soccer on the select team, the above reasons could be why. I would encourage you to engage in an ongoing discussion with your child that encourages him to open up to you as to why he does not want to play soccer on the select team. Finding out your child’s motivation is key to understanding his shifting interests in participation.

Even if you require your son to play soccer since he has made the commitment, you might be able to get his body to the games, but you might not be able to get his heart to show up. Encourage your son to talk about his feelings around the select team. Listen to your son’s reasons. Validate his concerns. Sometimes listening and being a sounding board is all it takes for a child to come around to what was already planned. You won’t know until you go through this process. And, yes, keeping a commitment is a good life value to foster. Perhaps by going through this listening process you will be able to discern if this is a commitment worth keeping. Trust him to make the right choice. If he decides to continue playing soccer I would encourage you to highlight your son’s commitment, dedication, and effort on the team. Those skills will be transferable to any future sport, schooling, or work effort. Most importantly, let your son know that no matter what sport he plays you love him unconditionally.

Additional resource:

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk by Elaine Mazlish and Adele Faber

Jennifer WatanabeJennifer Watanabe is the parent coach at Youth Eastside Services (YES). She teaches Positive Discipline classes and provides individual parent coaching. As a Certified Parent Coach, she has vast experience teaching parenting classes, using research-based information on child development, temperament, discipline, and emotion management. She specializes in helping parents who are longing for a better relationship with their children and who need a more effective way to discipline. Perhaps most importantly, Jennifer understands first-hand the issues parents face in our community.

For more information, email Watanabe or check out the YES website for details on upcoming classes.

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