When Your Child Decides To Quit Their Sport
This was my youngest the day she got her “club” backpack and the uniform kit. You can see in her eyes, she was so proud. And why wouldn’t she be – she had been a passenger in her older sister’s soccer carpools for years and was able to watch wide-eyed as the girls all wore their matching uniforms, giggled and sang along with the car radio. They’d all pile out of my 8-seater SUV and onto the field and my little one would take it all in, waiting for her chance.
We never really planned for her to play club soccer, we assumed she would find her way with another sport when the time came. But when she was seven, I enrolled her in a training session “shooting stars” only because it happened to be at the same field and time as her older sister’s practices and since she was playing recreational soccer, I thought it would be better than her sitting on my lap playing on the iPad. We didn’t realize at the time that her age group was aging up to club and out of “shooting stars.’ So we just sort of went with it. One year in, she was enjoying her team and loved her female coach. It was fun and it seemed like this might be OK. Then, people started talking about the ‘new age group rules.’ Apparently, our team was splitting up and she would now be ‘aging up’. My December 26th birthday girl, was now leaving all her friends and a coach she liked, to try and make a team that had girls two age groups above her. She was not happy about it and it was one of the toughest things our little girl has faced so far in her short sports career. (If only I had known, I could have induced her five days later for a perfect January 1st birthday!! 🤪)
The tryout was definitely a grit building experience …
Even though we all knew it would be tough to make the team, she originally said she wanted to give it a go and we saw value in her going through the process. Then the day came, and she changed her mind, and cried and said that she didn’t want to go, she didn’t want to play soccer anymore. Her father and I felt strongly she needed to see it through, we couldn’t let fear dictate her choices now that the day had arrived. Since we gave her no option, she got herself together and went to the field that night. But they changed the order of a normal practice and decided to scrimmage first thing. Typically every practice starts with warm up drills, this unexpected change, rattled her. All of the strength she had mustered, disappeared and sent her running to me on the sideline, crying. This is one of those parenting moments that I’ll remember forever. Like time standing still, she was buried in my arms, uncontrollably sobbing. Parents trying to offer support and comfort, kids staring. Still I held my ground against her begging and pleading to take her home. I pried her away and made her go back to the scrimmage. It took a good ten minutes, but she did it – after calming down, she wiped her eyes, and turned back to face her fears. It’s still hard to write about, I felt like a terrible parent in that moment.
When she came off the field that night, she was all smiles. She went through what she was so fearful of and came out on the other end. She had a confidence and a lightness about her after that. I felt so grateful I didn’t cave and deny her of knowing her own strength. She went on to make that team by the skin of her teeth. She had played two years less than many on that team, was smaller, and shyer than most of them. But the coaches selecting must have seen something in her. I will always be grateful for that. Facing your fears head on and coming out on top. This was a game changer for her young life.
She played three more seasons of club soccer. She had to work hard to improve her skills and keep pace. But she did. She would work out on her own and sometimes with a trainer. She played almost every minute this last season on a packed bench, starting center back. She never complained that she rarely would get to play the more ‘fun’ positions, and her team played the top flight league and schedule and we lost nearly every game. Still she kept a great attitude and enjoyed the experience and learned a lot about herself. But I could see the writing on the wall. Towards the end, she wasn’t very interested in training on her own, she stopped watching soccer on television and she started to enjoy other sports more.
She was really getting into volleyball and her passion for it was becoming evident, where a soccer ball used to always be at her foot, she now had a volleyball always in her hand. She was playing three sports, if you include middle school basketball, and we told her she would have to give up something. She chose soccer. I’m not exactly sure when she decided she wouldn’t tryout for the next season, but a flip had switched and there was no going back. She finished out the season and has not looked back. I regret not making her show up to the first day of tryouts to say goodbye to everyone and tell them in person. I think it would have been the right way to close this chapter, but she was adamant about not doing that, she hates attention of any kind.
Seven years of watching that little blonde ponytail run up and down the field is something I’m going to miss seeing. In fact, every time I try and write about it, the tears start flowing. It’s interesting we all know it should be about them, but it’s hard not to let it become a part of you. All the friends you make on the sidelines, your hopes and dreams for your child. Reflecting on all of her hard work and tears and grit she acquired. How much she grew making the transition to the older team, not making the top team, losing a lot of games. But so many amazing experiences she learned from as well – the game-winning penalty kick, being crowned champions at tournaments and most importantly, the friendships. One of her closest friends today, she made on the soccer field. What SHE probably remembers most: running around malls with her teammates in between tournament games.
I will miss all of it. The good, the bad, and everything in between. Thankfully, I will still get to watch her play … volleyball, basketball, maybe track and field. But soccer holds a special place in my heart, because it’s where she first learned about herself and it’s what gave her a strong foundation and a little grit. It was her first teacher for all of these life lessons you can learn from sports and we look forward to all that will continue to follow… even if they won’t be on the soccer field.