When Your Child Wants to Quit Sports - Nemours Blog


When Your Child Wants to Quit Sports

As kids head back to school and daily routines, many are also returning to sports. But what happens if your child doesn’t want to try out for the team this year? They’re not alone.

According to research from The Aspen Institute, almost 1 in 4 parents say their kids are less interested in organized sports since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The benefits of organized sports are well known. They keep kids active and teach important life skills like teamwork and how to manage conflict. Kids who play on a team can gain self-esteem and confidence from learning new skills. And they are less likely to have anxiety and depression or to use drugs.

So how can you help your kids enjoy team sports? And if organized sports aren’t right for them, how can you help them stay active and involved?

Ways to Help Your Child Make the Best Choice

Start out by calmly talking to your child about why they want to quit. They may:

  • be nervous about how COVID-19 will affect the experience
  • have lost interest in the sport
  • have developed an interest in another activity or hobby
  • have a problem with a coach or teammate
  • not enjoy competing
  • feel that they aren’t good at the sport
  • fear injury
  • feel too much pressure to perform
  • feel too busy to add a sport to the schedule
  • worry about the cost

Once you understand why they want to quit, you can:

  1. Help them problem-solve. They may need your advice on managing a teammate issue. Or they may want you to go through their schedule to make sure they have enough time for homework and other activities. You also can teach them how to prevent sports injuries.
  2. Ask if they want to try a different team sport or different league. A travel soccer team is going to feel much more high-pressure than most recreational center leagues. Find out what works best for your child.
  3. See if they want to try an individual sport. Swimming, track and field, tennis and golf are all great ways to stay fit and compete. Look for low-cost lessons at a community center.

Kids who don’t want to play a sport but want to stay involved in group activities or just stay active might:

  • Become a referee. Refereeing is a great idea for older kids with experience in a certain sport. Check with the league for training opportunities. As a bonus, your child may even get paid.
  • Be a team manager. This way, they can still benefit from being part of the team.
  • Join a service club. Help your child look at school and in the community for service clubs. Being part of a group that does park clean-ups or helps older adults, for example, is a great way for kids to stay involved.
  • Develop another interest such as theater or a tech team. Learning dance moves, building sets, moving props and running audio-visual equipment offers the benefits of teamwork and movement. You can check out community or school theater groups.

Whatever you decide together, be sure to teach your kids the importance of staying active. Playing sports isn’t for everyone, but being active can be. Joining the YMCA or a gym, taking lessons in karate or yoga, riding bikes or playing pickup basketball in the neighborhood can help start lifelong healthy habits.

New Perspective for Families

The COVID-19 pandemic taught us a lot. During lockdown, many families realized the overscheduled hustle and bustle from before doesn’t work for them anymore. Some of us, kids included, found new hobbies or interests we enjoy.

As you get back to pre-COVID 19 activities, it’s OK to think about what’s best for your family. Letting go of things that don’t make us happy is healthy. It’s more important to stay connected and active doing what we love.

Amy Anzilotti, MD

Amy Anzilotti, MD, is a general pediatrician and a medical editor at Nemours KidsHealth.