Dear Athletic Support: My junior-high-aged daughter came to me in the middle of last season and said basketball wasn’t fun anymore. I told her that since she had already started the season, she couldn’t quit, but we’d talk about it at the end of the year. Now summer workouts are going and she still says she doesn’t want to play. I’m afraid if she stops playing it could lead to quitting other sports and activities. At this age, should I force her to play or let her make a decision I think she’ll regret? — Momma Didn’t Raise No Quitter
Dear Momma Didn’t Raise: Junior high is a confusing time for both parents and kids, especially daughters. At this age your daughter’s interests can change faster than her latest crush.
With that being said, I think requiring her to complete the previous season was a good move. You taught her a lesson in perseverance, a trait so many young Americans are lacking these days.
Just look at the college football scene. It seems like every year highly recruited quarterbacks are jumping ship and transferring to different schools as soon as they realize they won’t be named starter for their freshman year. Gone are the days of loyalty, of working hard and waiting until you’ve truly earned your spot on the field.
I spent three years on the sideline in college, bored out of my mind, playing scout team quarterback and getting pummeled until I finally earned my spot. Looking back, though, I was a better quarterback — and more importantly, a better person — because of all that waiting. I didn’t quit. I stuck it out, and the lessons I learned from those three long years have helped me immensely in my adult life.
However, your daughter is in a different situation. She’s not in college. She doesn’t have a scholarship and five years of free school riding on whether or not she plays junior high basketball.
So here’s what you have to do: Give your daughter the summer to make her decision. If, by the start of school she still doesn’t want to play, let her quit, but also tell her she needs to find another sport, hobby, or club that can fill the void left from basketball. Idle hands are the devil’s playground. If your daughter isn’t dribbling come next basketball season, you need to make sure she stays busy.
Dear Athletic Support: My twelve-year-old son lives, breathes, and eats football. There’s just one problem — he isn’t very good. He’s never scored a touchdown. He barely even gets to play, but he doesn’t seem to care. I hate to see him put all his energy into something that he has no talent for. What should I do? — Doubting Dad
Dear Doubting Dad: You should support your son’s passion. Just because he’s not a star player doesn’t mean he’s not learning many valuable lessons, like teamwork, discipline, and toughness.
Beyond that, sports offer countless benefits other than being the guy who scores the most points. Maybe your son has a future in coaching. Oftentimes, the best coaches were not the best players. Instead, elite coaches were usually the players who had to work the hardest and master every step and technique. Consequently, they are able to teach budding athletes the best way to play ball.
Maybe your son is the next Bill Belichick. Maybe not. Either way, the lessons he learns from sports will go a long way.
Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Please use the “Contact” page at elicranor.com to send in questions for “Athletic Support.”