Yes, We Let Our Kid Quit Soccer

Because I was not  blogging all up in your faces for a large part of last year (and this year, but who’s counting?) you may or may not know that Maddie tried out for competitive soccer last summer.  Okay, so she did, she was selected to play for their “academy” team, which is the top team in her age group for this particular club, and thus began our life as a “soccer” family.  Twice weekly practices totaling three hours (not including warm up and travel time), games every weekend, and sometimes…tournaments.  We bought two practice uniforms, two game day uniforms, warm pants, a warm up jacket, new cleats, new indoor soccer shoes, and a new water bottle.  We rearranged schedules and hunkered down for the long haul.

And at first, things seemed to be going well.  Her team wasn’t particularly successful, but this was their first year playing at the division-1 level, and several of the girls were playing competitive for the first time.  They all seemed to be getting along pretty well, and they appeared to be having a good time.  (I say appeared because I didn’t watch a lot of the practice–either I was entertaining Gabbie or I was using the time to walk the trails near the practice field with the dog, exercising us both.)  Maddie wasn’t progressing as quickly as some of the girls, but we figured it was just an adjustment time, and she’d settle in and pick things up toward the end of the Fall season.  Or maybe winter.  Yes, winter was definitely where she’d come into her own and start to catch up, skill-wise, with the rest of the girls!  She’d become more confident, and therefore she’d have more fun, and games would go from tense hours in which we tried to be supportive rather than cringing after each error, grimacing at her lack of effort.  Winter was coming, and with it, our daughter’s love of soccer would return!

It didn’t.  We decided, well, we’ll ride it out for the rest of the Spring season, and then come summer, we can re-evaluate.  We can talk with her about whether she wants to try out again, or whether she’d rather try a different sport or a different team or…something.  This was clearly not working.  Her coach, however, beat us to the punch.  In preparation for the pre-season Player Evaluation, he emailed Jon, saying she wasn’t progressing as quickly as he’d like, and he wasn’t really sure how to motivate her or work with her.  Nothing he’d tried seemed to stick–some days she was great and really seemed to be getting a handle on things, and others, she was struggling with basic skills the other girls had already mastered.  She lacked focus, and she lacked ambition.  She was there, and she was doing what was asked of her, but that was about it.*

worn out

You should note that this was from rec, about a year ago. That’s how tough this year was…we don’t even have pictures of her playing.

He was concerned that she was starting to dislike soccer (which, yes, absolutely, she was), so he suggested moving her down to the B or C team in the club or even bumping her back down to rec.  We said we’d discuss it with her, as we felt it was really her decision, and then we offered her five options:

  1.  Stay on her current team.  Whether her coach liked it or not, she had initially earned that spot, and while he may have felt she was failing the team, the same could be said in reverse.  She didn’t just make a commitment to the team; the team made one to her, and they were the ones not living up to their end of the bargain.
  2. Move down to the B team.
  3. Move down to the C team.
  4. Move down to rec.
  5. Quit soccer altogether and go play volleyball with a close friend of hers, an option that had been offered her, but which we’d turned down because with soccer, tae kwon do, Girl Scouts, and piano, her schedule was already crazy enough.

She chose 5.

So, yes, we let our kid quit soccer.  There’s a lot of “stuff” out there that will tell you that you shouldn’t let your kids quit, and to some extent I agree with it.  Don’t let them quit just because they initially think it’s too hard.  Don’t let them quit because they don’t currently see the value in a skill you know they’re going to appreciate later.  Don’t let them quit because they got a better offer, or something else seems momentarily more fun, or because they had a bad week.  But when they’re 8 years old and they’ve been doing it for six months and they’re no longer having any fun and it’s causing your family to bend over backwards to make practices and games that no one, not even the person playing, really wants to be at?  Hell, yes!  You let them quit!

At the age of 8, there is something to be gained in trying new things, in pushing yourself further than you thought you could, in failing, in trying again even after you fail.  And yes, also at the age of 8, there is very little to be said for continuing to do something day in and day out that doesn’t make you happy, that brings you no joy, that erodes your confidence and sucks your energy and gives you nothing but stellar calf muscles.  She’s got her entire adult life to do things like that.  At age 8, she should be having fun.

She tells me at least twice a week that she’s so glad she quit soccer.  She started volleyball last week and has been to two practices so far.  This week, she told me how glad she was that it was Wednesday because that meant volleyball practice.  She’s having an absolute blast.  And at 8 years old, THAT is how you’re supposed to feel about playing a game with your friends.  I initially had mixed feelings about “giving up,” but she seems so much…lighter now.  I’m really glad we let her make that decision, that we trusted her to decide what was best for her.  Of course, now, fingers crossed that we don’t burn out on this one, too…  Sigh.  Parenting is the BEST, you guys.


*In her defense, I don’t think he really tried that hard to reach her.  She’s not a particularly competitive kid, and he didn’t do much, that we could see, to try and foster that spirit in her.  I think he assumed it would come naturally (as many naturally competitive people do), and when it didn’t, he figured she just wasn’t interested, not that he’d failed to motivate her in any way.