You Can’t Force Your Child to Play Youth Sports


The short and long-term benefits of playing youth sports (getting kids more active, socializing, teaching teamwork, etc) are hard to deny. And obviously while we at SportsSignup are more than a little biased, we do understand that sports aren’t for everybody. Maybe your child would rather learn to play the drums, star in the school musical, take a painting class, or become a chess master. Whatever they want to do is fine, as long as they love to do it! But it can be hard for some parents, especially when they were big sports stars in their own childhood, to let go of their own athletic dreams for their kids. While parents are obviously the ones signing up young children for sports (most 5 year olds aren’t begging to play t-ball), at some point kids have to want to play sports because THEY love to play, not just because you want them to play.

Your Child Wants to Play Another Sport

From 2000 to 2009, the number of kids aged 7-17 playing baseball fell 24%, according to the National Sporting Goods Association. At the same time participation in youth tackle football grew 21%, while ice hockey jumped 38%. While you might have been a All-Conference baseball player in your own high school days, perhaps your son or daughter would rather play tennis, run cross country, or even field hockey. It’s important to remember that our kids are their own independent people, with their own likes and dislikes, and not just mini versions of us. You might live and breathe football, but they really would much rather play lacrosse. And if that is what they love forcing them to play football isn’t going to end well for either of you.

Even if your child is naturally a phenomenal soccer or football player, maybe their heart just You Can't Force Your Child to Play Youth Sportsisn’t in it. Plenty of natural born athletes never make it out of youth sports simply because they don’t care as much as you do. At some point athletes need to lean more heavily on their own internal drive, that intrinsic motivation, to grow and excel in athletics. You can want it for them most of the way to success, but at a certain point they have to be willing (and wanting!) to put in the hours and the hard work. Even naturally talented athletes have to love what they are doing in order to succeed.

Your Child Is Done with Youth Sports Altogether

This one can be a hard pill for sports-loving parents to swallow, especially if they feel like their child really has a chance at “making it.” But 75% of kids quit playing youth sports by the time they are 13, so chances are your kids are going to be part of that percentage. There are many speculations as to why so many kids quit sports so early (overly aggressive parents and coaches, burnout caused by early specialization, etc), but we have to figure at least some percentage of those kids just don’t like playing sports in general. If your child feels like youth sports just aren’t for them that’s okay! Maybe they would prefer to play ultimate Frisbee with their friends after school, start a band, join the debate team, or some other extracurricular activity.

If they want to call it quits with youth sports (at the end of the season preferably) sometimes the best thing you can do is let them try something else. Obviously every case is different and if you think your child is quitting because they are feeling bullied or left out by their teammates there are other issues that need to be addressed. But if sports just aren’t for them it might be time to give up on the “going pro” dream.