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Sierra Soleimani
February 18, 2016

How Can Coaches Prevent Kids From Quitting Sports?


It's a lot easier to show up for a 6 a.m two hour practice, when it's something you love to do. As soon as it becomes a chore, it's not fun anymore and you don't want to play.  With peak dropout rates on the rise, how can coaches and parents keep kids from quitting a sport mid-season? Here are five tips on how to be a good coach and keep your kids' heads in the game.  

Don't Focus on Winning 

Of course, everyone wants to be on the winning team, but it's not everything. Beyond the wins, young athletes get so much more out of sports. They get the opportunity to create fun memories, learn good sportsmanship, make friends, learn new skills and more.

Be excited and upbeat about almost everything that happened in the game, regardless if it's a win or loss. Highlight the positives aspects like, how you liked seeing them encouraging their teammates or how their pitch has improved. Our role as the adults is to simply support them and encourage them to have fun, regardless of winning.

Play Everyone on the Roster

When kids were asked what made sports more fun, "getting play time" was one of their top 3 answers. Kids join sports because they love the game and want to play. Winning isn't as important to them as playing. Giving everyone equal playing time will make everyone feel a sense of belonging to a team and prevent coaches from creating favorites or "best athletes". Alternatively, you can create a B league so everyone gets the opportunity to play. 

Encourage Them to Try New Sports

It can be very easy for a child to experience burnout from a single sport. When they've been playing the same sport from age 5, it's no wonder they're ready to move on by age 13. When you start to notice the burnout, encourage your child to choose a different sport every season. There are countless benefits to switching it up. It gives them a chance to learn new skills and use a different set of muscles while resting others. 

Facilitate Unstructured Play Time

Kids need time to play without structure and away from the TV/phone screens. Research published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology found that people who had free time during childhood enjoy high levels of social success as adults.

Organized sports are often driven by adult rules and motives (like winning). Child-driven play time gives them opportunities for social development, teamwork and leadership. They are able to create their own games with their friends, make their own decisions for rules and eliminate stress and pressure. Here are some fun solutions:

  • Organize a pickup game
  • Mix it up - turn a boring practice into a scavenger hunt
  • Have them make up their own rules for next week's practice

    Let go of the reigns

    Leadership building skills are a great benefit of team sports. Allow each child the opportunity to take personal accountability for their team and their skill set. Being hands off will show them that you trust their judgment and give them confidence in themselves. Taking on a responsibility in the team's daily routine will let the child know that they have a rightful place on the team, apart from playtime and they are important to overall team's success. 

Kids want to join sports because it's something they have a passion for and enjoy doing. As parents and coaches,it's our job to be supportive and make sure we don't turn them off to sports with our added pressures to excel. Sports are about having fun and creating memories. Wins can come and go, but memories - good or bad - last forever. If you want the retention levels to go up, make sports about team building, leadership, personal accountability and fun. 

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