We Let Our Son Quit Football - What Next?

by Mike
(Sacramento, CA, USA)

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I realize this is a long question, but I really do feel like I need to give some context.

My son is 9 wanted to sign up for football this season. I think his interest mostly came due to my interest in the sport. He made it through the first week of practice without any problems. I thought this would be the hardest for him because it was mostly conditioning. Once he got his pads and full contact was imminent, he complained of being nervous and of not wanting to do it.

He broke into tears before practice the night he was supposed to go full contact for the first time. I allowed him to sit the day out and my wife and I had a long talk with him and explained how important it was for him to give it a chance. We explained that if he quit, he would regret it further down the road. He agreed to give it a chance the next night.

When the time came, he broke down again and started saying how much he did not like any of the difficult parts of the sport - the conditioning, hitting, etc. After almost an hour of trying to convince him to stick with it, I decided to try a reverse psychology role on him and tell him to turn his pads in. We drove to the school, and he turned his pads into his coach and told him he was quitting.

My wife and I are unsure what to do now that we have allowed him to quit. We invested a lot of money into this for him and it has been lost, so we want to make sure he realizes all of the consequences of he decisions and the value of sticking with something that he begins.

We are not sure if we should discipline him for this or how to respond. I don't want him to grow up hating football or any other sports, or be afraid to try something new in fear of just quitting again.

Please share your advice.



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Jun 29, 2015
We Let Our Son Quit Football - What Next? NEW
by: Anonymous

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Sep 05, 2010
Son Quit Football
by: Laura Ramirez

Hi Mike,

First of all, I want to commend you for being such a great dad. You are right to be concerned that your son quit football because it could be the beginning of a pattern where he gives up on things that are difficult in life.

You said that you had a long talk with him and he told you about the aspects of football that he didn't like, but I wonder if you probed deeper to find out if his dislike was masking other feelings. Of course, it may well be that he just doesn't like the sport. But he also may not like football because he's afraid of getting hurt, living up to your expectations or because he feels insecure about his abilities, etc. Part of being a parent means teasing out these deeper truths and watching for the tells that reveal them because children don't always know how to tell us what they really feel.

As you learned from this experience, reverse psychology can often backfire, especially when your child takes you up on your offer, so when you choose to use it, use it carefully. Obviously, for some kids, this would have worked.

With regard to your question about punishing him, as a parenting coach, I never recommend that parents punish their children twice. The fact that your child had to suffer the humiliation of quitting in front of the coach and teammates is punishment enough.

It's up to you to create an experience now where he can learn that he does have what it takes to stick with something. Of course, the best arena for this in life, especially for males, is sports. It helps if your child has a good friend who participates in the sport because the camaraderie and peer pressure to do what's right for the team will motivate him to push past insecurities.

Before you do, I would have another talk with him and try to figure out if there was a deeper reason that your son quit football. If not, find a sport that he likes. If so, create an experience that teaches him gently that he can get past this issue.

I hope this helps.

Sep 02, 2010
Me Too
by: Anonymous

I have a similar problem. 11 year old wanted to play, liked the recess game of football and backyard type of football. He is not enjoying full drills in all the gear, daily. He twisted his foot a bit last night during a practice scrimmage, and is really working it. He says it's not fun.

He already knows who the coaches are going to play in the good positions (more seasoned league players). He is a little taller than other boys, so I think he does get tackled more aggressively, and when he is able to block, defend well, they put in coaches to work against him.

He says he doesn't get praised for good effort, the best he can hope for is the kid he goes up against getting a scolding and having to do push ups instead of him.

I want to make him play for another week or so, but really whats the point? He has already stated he doesn't want to do league play again. I'm hoping cutting him early will give his love of the sport a chance to recover and he might want to try another year-in high school.

I don't think forcing him to do it will work at all---he will hate it and is more likely to quit it permanently. It is his life, it is his body taking the tackles, it is his embarrassment in front of classmates when he gets berated by a coach or gleefully tackled or hurt by a peer. I think you did good.

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