Advice about Kids & Sports

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Son refuses to play sports

Sept 2005

My son is in a soccer league but refuses to play. He has a new excuse every time - I'm tired, it's hot, I'm hungry. Do I stick it out and drag him to games & practices or let him quit? I feel bad for his teammates because they have to play more since he won't. I feel like it is a control issue! HELP! anon

Of course you should let your son quit the soccer team if he doesn't want to play! What could you possibly hope to gain by forcing him to continue? It's only a game -- if he's not enjoying it, he shouldn't be playing it. And if his teammates care about the game, they'll be glad that someone who doesn't want to play is gone. Ask your son what he'd like to do instead, and whatever it is, let him do it! Diane

Sounds like your son really knows that he doesnt' want to play, for whatever reasons. Having a son who didn't like little league, I'd say don't force. It's also really hard for the kids who like the game and want to play to have someone who doesn't want to play (and I assume is not a good player and maybe not a good team member) on the team.

There are plenty of other things your son can find (over the years) to be involved in. Not playing sports is really not the end of the world.

If you force him you could cause more damage than be helpful. What are your expectations of him playing sports? You may have to let go of some vision of how you want him to be. Good luck, I know this is a hard one. anon

You don't mention how old your son is or how long he's been playing or whether he's playing recreational or more competetive soccer, and my advice (as both parent and coach) would vary depending on the circumstances. If this is his first year, he may just not be ready yet, and I would not push it. If he's played for some time and this is his first expression of lack of interest, I would probably push harder to get him to continue. If this has been coming for some time, I'd let him quit. I wouldn't worry about the other kids having to play more. Heck, one of the hardest things as a coach is to divide up the playing time and keep kids on the sideline who WANT to play when a kid who clearly doesn't want to is standing around on the field. Have you talked to his coach about it? That would be where I would start.

My oldest son is very competitive and a total jock and his younger brother is a total anti-jock who hates and resists competition. I was signing my 2nd son up for everything the older one was doing, and it took me a while to realize that son #2 was just not into it. While I do think it is good for a kid to have some kind of exercise, I realize in retrospect that it isn't necessary to force them to do something they dislike, when there are so many other great options available. What kind of kid do you have? Is it the team aspect that he dislikes? Or does he shy away from competition? Or does he need a chance to work more on his skills so he feels more confident? Ask your son what he'd like to do instead. If he doesn't like team sports, there is swimming, tennis, bike riding, martial arts, fencing, skateboarding, climbing, sailing. If he likes being on a team but he just doesn't like soccer, there's baseball, lacrosse, roller hockey, basketball, volleyball, etc. Not sure what age your son is, but these sports are all available to kids in the bay area.

The only reason I can think of for insisting he stick it out is if he asked to sign up for soccer and now is flaking on it. In that case I would urge him to stick out the season, after all he is the one who initiated it. But if you're the one who initiated it, you should help him find out what his own interests are, because we all do well at things that we are interested in. Mom of boys

The first question is: who decided to sign him up for soccer? Him or you? If it's him you have a better case to have him stick by his choice. The second question is his age, 6 or 12? If he's very young don't be too opinionated, or he will end up hating that sport. Last question: is this a pattern? Does he always to that, just to challenge you, or does he really not like soccer?

When my kids were young (bet. 5 and 8) I always wanted to sign them up for the usual soccer/basketball/baseball stuff, it is useless if they don't like it. It frustrate everybody and do not teach them anything. Now they choose their own sports, I'm even a bit reluctent at first to test their motivation and they end up performing and enjoying themselves. Good luck! anon

It seems to me that your son is not enjoying soccer and you expect him to play soccer for some reason (Because he is a boy? Because daddy did it or wants him to? Because his friends do it and it's part of the social circle you want to fit in as a family?). I think exercise is very important, especially in this computerized era, but some children do not like sports and that should be respected. Could you discuss the value of movement with your son and then listen to him and let him choose the exercise he wants? Maybe he'd prefer to run on a track, maybe he's drawn to martial arts or sees a possibility in yoga. Maybe he thinks dancing or ballet would feel great. Maybe water is his element and he's happy everytime he swims. Maybe he doesn't want a regular class and gets to walk the dog and climbs around on playgrounds or likes to kick ball just when he feels like it with friends or family on a grassy field. Please listen to him and ignore what you had in mind for him. He does want to please, but is caught in a situation where he feels that pleasing everyone else is more important than pleasing himself. Let him discover what he loves and all of you will be genuinely happy. Anonymous

maybe your son really hates playing sports. There are some very funny essays about this type of thing by David Sedaris. Your son may not necessarily be gay, but he may really, really hate being forced into this. Why not ask him if he wants to quit?

Don't force it. Take him out. I had the same situation with my son and a different sport. He fought going all the time. There are so many sports to choose from and if it is your goal to get him involved, let him decide which one. My 7 year old loves art so we do art classes. I teach Physical Education and I love sports/fitness and I think it is crazy NOT to do sports at his age (but that is me!) so if he would rather do something else, then so be it. Your child will be drawn to something eventually. When he takes an interest in something just be ready to work with him. Matthew