You know, I was thinking about the fall season ahead of us, and youth sports in general, and I kept thinking about this one startling statistic. 70% of children stop playing sports by the age of 13. That is really eye opening and something that we parents should be focused on changing. I think maybe the toughest part of this statistic is that the number one reason most kids cite for quitting is their relationship with their parents and the sport they play. The children cite the things their parents say on the sidelines in game and around training, and the car rides to and from the fields. Parents, this should lead us to some important thoughts and questions…because we love our children, and certainly aren’t trying to hurt them, or discourage them, or push them to quit something that is so healthy and can help them grow on and off the field. It’s so tough to think that by 13 years old, (by 8th grade) 70% of children will walk away from sports…think of all the time, the energy, the emotion, and the resources that go into those early years…and what is even tougher is the wasted potential and life lessons lost when they step away from the game.
So the question we parents should be asking is this: How do we navigate this competitive world of youth sports in a way that our children stay in the game? It’s the right question and to answer it, I’m want to remind you of 5 things that we parents can do to keep our children in the game.
Remember this youth sports thing is a marathon it is not a sprint. Listen, I remember the nerves, and tension of those early years, wanting our child to win every game at 7v7 or 9v9. But we have to remember it’s just not about winning games at 9 or 10 years old. There will be many games at younger ages where it is clear that the opposing teams’ value winning in the moment, and you will feel that tension, but we must remember it’s all about tomorrow! The focus is on our children building the skills needed to play soccer when it matters, at 11v11, when the field is larger, and you need teammates to build and play the game the right way. Which ironically begins at 13 years old…when 7 out of 10 kids are done playing!
Remember it is all about your child’s development. The most important decision you can make as a soccer parent is deciding intentionally that your focus and priority is the development of your player. When you make that decision you focus on training, skills, and quality of play over wins and losses. You will start to find yourself talking about training sessions and development to parents who only want to talk about games and results. Which is a good thing! Keep talking about and focusing on development. This doesn’t make you less competitive this means you are focused on the future and where your child is going to be someday!
Remember to focus on your child’s heart and passion. So, this is really where the rubber meets the road for us as soccer parents. We need to feed the passion and hearts of our children. This is key, if we lose their hearts and passion for the game our child becomes part of the 70% that quit the game, so I would like to spend a little time here and give you 3 simple ways to help fuel the fire for your child rather than smothering it out! Are you ready?
Keep it fun! If the game isn’t fun…what are we doing? Parents we must focus on keeping it fun! I didn’t say don’t compete; or be competitive; I think competing is fun…but if it isn’t fun, we will lose them! So, let me ask you mom or dad are you having fun with the game? If you are I think your children pick up on that, if you are not…well, I think your children know that too. Please keep the game fun!
Make rest a priority! Listen there will always be something else to do, another camp, another opportunity for the best exposure possible…all of which will be advertised to you as the opportunity to get your child to the next level…and somehow, I think we can feel like we aren’t good parents if we don’t send our children to everything possible. But rest sometimes is the most important thing we can do! It is ok to say no and allow your child the chance to rest, and come back wanting to play rather than tired, from another opportunity somewhere else. Rest is huge! In fact, I think as a parent, saying no, and allowing your child to rest may be the most important thing you can do. It’s as important as the trainings they do in their development especially as we focus on the future!
Have the mindset that this isn’t about you. I think a lot of us parents mean well, but we can get caught up in competing with other soccer parents over things that aren’t important. Which camps we attend, which teams we play on, where our teams sit in the standings, right down to how our child performs in front of others…we must remember this is their time and much of our stress and tension is more about us, than it is about our child. You want to build into their hearts, and to do that we have to remember it isn’t about us.
Remember the importance of the car ride. Remember how many children cite the car rides to and from games and trainings as the reason they stop playing? This means we need to be intentional with those rides. You may want to call your spouse, or a friend on the car ride home and vent but remember those little ears are listening. You may be upset, but these moments and these words said in the car are what hurt so many children. Please, remember your words matter! And the most important words you can say as a parent that you must make a point to say on your way to and from every training and game is as follows.
I LOVE WATCHING YOU PLAY!
If you want to add anything to it, ask this question. DID YOU HAVE FUN TODAY? Because that is truly what matters…right?
Remember there is a difference between the role of a parent and the role of the coach. I think this is so important for us to just touch on here…remember, you are not the soccer coach, you are mom or dad…you may think you know the game, and maybe you do, but you are not the coach...so be mom or dad and trust your coach to be the soccer coach. When you do trust the coach to handle the soccer it frees you up to focus on the heart, passion and health of your child. You can relax and enjoy the game and watching them play, and I’m telling you when you relax and enjoy the game your child can relax and enjoy the game too!
So as we end this particular post I want to ask you some important questions. Think this through…
What do you need to do or stop doing to help keep your child in the game long term?
What needs to change in your focus or priorities when it comes to games, training, and competition?
What do we as parents need to do to keep our children passionate and healthy and playing youth sports past the age of 13?
Thank you for reading, and please stay tuned for our next big series here in the Parent Corner which will really focus on the Parent Sideline during games!