At what point do we ask ourselves when dealing with a sport or athlete: When is it time to try a different sport, or quit the current path we are on?
Unfortunately, injuries can end an athlete's career early, but so can the disappointment of defeat or not fitting into the current program he/ she is involved in.
I have seen so many talented athletes quit because of pressure, or because they no longer saw the game fun. Athletes will also quit due to peer pressure, or negative experiences that keep happening in school or at practice.
The first and foremost thing I discuss with parents and athletes is realistic honesty.
Finding out first what is it that the athlete feels when he or she plays. Are they then taking those feelings as facts and turning them into negative experiences. Players may feel a certain way which is valid, but it's not until pointed out by a parent or coach the true situation that was turned into the feeling.
Athletes may be so hard on themselves that they can not see how well they are doing. They may put so much pressure on themselves that losing is unacceptable- or take the attitude that if the team loses it's OK as long as they themselves had a stellar performance.
Parents are really good at undermining athletes performances with such comments as you could have done better, or if you do really well we will give you something. What are you trying to do here? Kids and adults quit all the time because of this. Pressure that is created from within is tough enough, but undue outside pressure can just add to the problem.
Expectations are another key factor in all of this. Laying out why you are playing and what's your motive can help keep the expectation level from being unrealistic.
Athletes have ideas of what they want to do, but many times parents have another thing in mind. We have all seen child athletes who everyone says is going to Olympics, or is getting a scholarship. Oh, this was when the kid was 8.
If we keep the game or activity fun but challenging the interest level will continue to grow as performance increases. Sure there comes a time when the athlete no longer progresses or the fun stops, and this is the time parents and coaches need to step up and formulate a plan.
If the athlete has made a decision that he/ she no longer want to play a team sport it's OK. If the athlete is forced into play and practice with a poor attitude the entire team will be put at risk.
Parents can have a family sit-down and seek advice from professionals to determine what's the true cause. Parents, try not to judge your athlete as weak or no good, and please do not throw at them how much money has been invested in the activity.
Remember, when they first started it was the parents who thought it was a good idea. Forcing any activity upon a young athlete can and will lead to negative later in life issues.
Everyone wants to think they know what's best for the athlete. Open communication and honesty can best determine what the path should be. Listen to your athletes and talk to the other parents around that you feel safe in sharing your experience.
Getting advice from the over-aggressive parent may not work in this situation. Seek resources online and if the athlete is mature enough, seek couseling for them. Pressure to perform is all over life, but when it comes to sports we must remember that it's suppose to be fun. Use sports as a life learning positive experience without all the drama.
Now when it comes to injuries, that's a whole new ball game. Fear of re-injury can force a player out of the sport. Treat injuries with respect and understand that a players fear is REAL!
Try to openly discuss the perimeters around the sport and possibility of injury and have a realistic plan laid out. There are so many sports and activities for kids to be part of these days. Try to find the one that fits the personality of the child, and support them no matter what. Do not be the pouting parent who has a child who does not play the sport that your friend's kids play.
Listen to your athletes and make informed family decisions. Let them know its OK!