Since having fun is so essential to a successful youth sports experience, it is important to be on the lookout for signs that your child isn't enjoying herself. If you see a pattern of any of the following behaviors emerging, it is probably because she is not having fun and, if things don't change, may end up quitting:
- She complains of being sick at practice or game time. At some time or another, just about every child athlete will tell their parents that they don't feel like going to a game or practice. If, however, your child repeatedly tells you when it's time to go practice or a game that she doesn't feel like playing because she has a headache or stomachache or is feeling dizzy, she may be telling you indirectly that she doesn't want to play because sports have become too stressful and not fun enough.
- She is slow to return to practice after an injury. If your child is playing sports for the wrong reasons (e.g., to please you), she may express it by being reluctant to return to play after an injury, even when the injury has fully healed and she has medical clearance to play.
- She is nervous or anxious before, during, or after games. If your child appears extra nervous, anxious, angry, or sad on the way to, during, or after sports, it may be an indication that she isn't enjoying sports.
- She practices well but plays poorly. If you notice that your child seems to perform consistently better in practice than in competition it may be because, for a variety of reasons, she isn't having fun competing and is feeling stressed.
- She engages in atypical behavior. If your even-tempered child suddenly throws a tantrum or hits a teammate or opponent, or your extroverted child suddenly becomes sullen and withdrawn, it may be a sign that your child is no longer having fun in sports.
Adapted from the book, Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (HarperCollins 2006) by Brooke de Lench.
Updated June 26, 2011