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It’s that time of year for sports sign-ups and many kids are super excited about playing. They can’t wait for the first practice or game, don’t want to take their new jersey off and want to practice to get better. Then, there are those kids who don’t. They went to the first practice and it wasn’t quite what they expected. They didn’t make a goal, didn’t have any friends on the field and ultimately decided they wanted nothing to do with it. And their parents are left making some tough decisions…

Should I let him quit?

Should I make her play even if she doesn’t want to ?

Is making him play going to leave a bad taste in his mouth for future sports?

Let me start by explaining why early experiences with sports can be difficult for kids: The IDEA of playing sports is very different than the REALITY of playing sports.

Kids envision themselves as being instantly successful. They dream of hitting the game winning shot, having their teammates rally around them and being the most valued kid on the team. When this doesn’t happen, kids often want to quit. They stress about going, worry about missing a shot and start isolating themselves from their teammates. Many kids cry all the way to the field, begging their parents to turn the car around and take them back home.

If you are currently in this situation or can even FORESEE this situation, a good strategy is saying, “Let’s make a decision after three times.  You can go to three practices, games, etc. and then decide if you want to continue to play.”  When your child starts to complain after the first practice, remind him/her that we’re going to wait and make a decision after three times.  (*An exception to this rule:  If your child signs up for a SEASON and is expected to play the whole season, then he/she should complete the season without the obligation to ever play the sport again.”) If there is no obligation then use THREE TIMES TO DECIDE.


Within 3 practice or games, many kids will end up liking the sport. They will have been successful, made a friend or feel valued by the coach. If you pull the trigger too soon, this may have not happened. So give your child a chance to like a sport or activity, even though he may not have gotten off to a good start.

For more tools about how to navigate difficult situations with kids, discover Why Smart Kids Worry.

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