Question: My preteen has been playing soccer since second grade and now she says she wants to quit the sport. She's a great athlete and we wanted her to play through high school. What should we do?
Jennifer's Answer: Many children are introduced to sports at a very young age and thrive on the playing field. But as your child matures it's possible that the sport she once loved is no longer as interesting as it once was. If your child thinks it's time to leave a sport behind, there are a few things you can do to encourage her to reconsider.
Is Something Wrong? It's possible that your child has encountered a problem on the team or with a teammate or coach. Try to find out if your child has encountered a bully or some sort of personality issue that's prompting the problem. You might find that once the challenge has been addressed, your child's interest in her sport will continue.
Does She Need a Break? Tweens, just like adults, may suffer occasionally from burn out or stress. Ask yourself if your child needs a break from sports or other activities. A heart to heart talk may reveal that your tween needs a little down time built into her schedule, or more time to devote to school, school clubs or other middle school activities. If you can readjust her schedule you might find that she's still interested in playing her sport, as long as she has time for her other priorities.
Is She on the Right Team? If your child's interest in soccer has suddenly changed, it could be that she's on the wrong team or is playing in the wrong league. Find out if your child would do better in a less competitive league, or would be interested in playing on another team. It's also possible that your tween is becoming bored and needs an additional challenge or two. If so, talk to her coach about teaching her new skills or giving her a larger role on the team.
Is it Time for a New Sport? Introducing your child to team sports at such an early age gives her a life long appreciation for athletics and physical fitness. But soccer may not be the right sport for your growing tween. Find out if your daughter is simply interested in pursuing another sport at this time in her life. It might be that she's merely interested in trying another sport, such as field hockey or volleyball. You might be surprised that her love of sports has encouraged her to find another outlet for her abilities.
Is Your Tween Feeling OK? If your child has suddenly announced that she doesn't want to play sports find out if she's feeling alright. A child who has an injury or who is struggling with other issues may no longer have the energy to devote to sports. Schedule a physical for your tween, including an eye exam, and talk to your child about her health. Puberty can also play a role in your child's health, and can make her feel self conscious about how she looks or how her peers perceive her. A heart to heart may reveal that your tween is really dealing with a self image issue or another health challenge.