Why Did Sam Quit Sports?
My friend recently mentioned in passing that her 10-year-old son quit basketball and isn’t playing ANY sports now. He decided a few months ago that he was done. He was retiring, like the recent Project Play, Aspen Institute’s #Don’tRetireKid campaign. And just like that, Sam became another statistic. According to the National Alliance For Youth Sports, nearly 70% of kids quit sports by the time they are 13…but not this kid?
Sam is from a ‘sporty’ family, both of the parents are former collegiate athletes. They love sports and have a healthy life/sport balance with all their kids. Sam is a natural athlete with excellent hand-eye coordination and freakishly fast speed, he was a top player on both his basketball and lacrosse teams. So what went wrong? Where did we fail Sam?
The signs started about halfway through this last basketball season, his mom went on to explain, “he didn’t like attending practice when he knew a certain coach would be there and he wasn’t as excited anymore about games.” He finished that season on a high note with a good playoff run, helping his team get to the second round. But when pressed about why he didn’t want to tryout again, he said it was too much pressure from his coach. The constant yelling and screaming at him and the rest of the team had started to take a toll. The parents had witnessed a lot of intimidation tactics used by the coach as well. “Sam was only 9, 10 years old! There are so many times I thought to myself, if that had happened in a classroom, I wouldn’t have tolerated it, but we let it go on and didn’t complain.”
His parents say they have seen a change in Sam since he retired from sports. “He seems like a different kid. He is happier. He has more free time to spend with friends and focus on school.” Although they admit that maybe a little too much time is spent on video games. Even still, they are glad they allowed him to quit, saying it was a really ‘toxic’ situation on that particular team. They are hopeful Sam will pick up a new sport in the future or decide to return to one of the many he’s already played. But so far he’s happy with his choice.
In a 2014 George Washington University study, 9 of 10 kids said “fun” is the main reason they participate in sports and ranked “winning” at Number 48. The coaches and the system had taken the ‘fun’ out of it for Sam. Not only was it not fun, it was downright bad. They aren’t mini-adults, they are kids who don’t want or need a part-time job, they just want to have fun. Sometimes it is just that simple.