When Kids Drop Out of Sports Because of Little Playing Time

Youth Sports Psychology

Positive Coaching in Youth Sports

At first, Brian Sanders’ son enjoyed sports. He had a coach who gave all the kids equal playing time. The second year, the boy dropped out of sports altogether because the coach gave him—and other players—little playing time.

“Kids drop out because of these negative experiences,” says Sanders.

In fact, up to 75% of kids drop out of sports by the time they are 13—mostly because they’re not having fun anymore.

Read on to learn about how to keep kids in sports if they have little playing time or are losing confidence.

Sanders is now president and CEO of I9 Sports, a fast-growing sports franchise that gives all kids equal playing time. He says equal playing time helps build their confidence and self-esteem.

Here at The Ultimate Sports Parent and Kids’ Sports Psychology, we agree that little playing time can hurt kids’ confidence and sometimes cause them to drop out. But not always. Why?

Often, when kids get little playing time, they feel unsupported by their coaches. They begin to feel like they’re bad players. Or they develop fear of failure.

Sports kids are afraid that if they make mistakes, they’ll get even less playing time.

This creates a negative cycle: They’re so afraid of making mistakes that they take no risks, play or perform tentatively and aren’t very effective.

The truth is, kids can still enjoy being on teams when they have little playing time. It all depends on how the coach handles this situation. If a coach is positive, supportive, builds team unity and ensures the kids have fun, it’s likely a child will stay with the team.

It’s your job as sports parents to find these coaches for your sports kids. Read on to learn what to look for in a sports experience.

We know one very popular basketball coach who recognizes each child’s strengths, focuses on them and tries to build on them. He makes the team fun by joking around with his players.

What’s more, if he puts a less skilled or less confident player in a game, he tries to set up a situation that will allow the player to feel successful. He always praises the players for what they do well and points out ways they can grow or have grown.

This coach emphasizes teamwork and creates a real “family” for the team members. Many of the kids who spend most of their time sitting on the bench don’t want to miss one minute of practice or any games with this coach!

Why? This coach makes them feel important, ensures they have fun and boosts their confidence by pointing out their small but important “wins.” Such wins might include making lots of rebounds or passing well.

In summary, if you’re worried that your sports kids might drop out, make sure their experience builds their confidence and enjoyment of the game. Little playing time can hurt confidence–but it can also spur kids to try harder and improve their game. But that only happens if they’re having fun.

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The Composed Sports Kid

“The Composed Sports Kid” audio and workbook digital download program for young athletes and their parents or coach helps kids cope with frustration and anger in sports. Help your sports kids learn how to manage expectations and let go of mistakes so they can keep their head in the game. 

The Composed Sports Kid system is really two programs in one–one program to train parents and coaches how to help their kids practice composure, and one program that teaches young athletes–ages 6 to 13–how to improve composure, let go of mistakes quickly, have more self-acceptance, and thus enjoy sports more

2 thoughts on “When Kids Drop Out of Sports Because of Little Playing Time”

  1. Patrick, Excellent article. I think your advice is right on target about how coaches can create an enjoyable youth sports experience for their kids–one that keeps kids wanting to participate. It’s not just about “equal playing time” in each game. This panacea alone is NOT always the best developmental approach for some children (e.g. struggling, older beginners who are overwhelmed). Providing each child with meaningful team roles, praising small successes, and Teaching Everyone Everything are all part of a balanced coaching approach that helps create a fun, rewarding youth sports experience for everyone. As a youth basketball coach, I very much identified with the methods followed by the basketball coach you know. I absolutely believe this is the best coaching approach within a developmental, participation-based youth program. I’ve written several articles on my blog (www.InsideYouthSports.org) that support the principles he follows and you advocate.

  2. Thanks for having this blog and in particular, this topic, Patrick! I’ve watched a volleyball club team here in Colorado systematically destroy my daughter’s self-esteem and belief that she could play the sport of volleyball at a high level over a two year period .. . primarily just due to the very low moral character the coaches on this club possessed. Stepping back and looking at it now their actions are even more despicable, because of the promises THEY made to my daughter and my family and how they strung us along with false promise (really . . . lies) all the while extracting many, many dollars from us. What makes it all the more sad was their initial promises when my daughter first made this team. They really had us believeing that they would develop my daughter in ALL aspects of the game . . .to include the MOST important aspect . . . gaining confidence by playing in meaningful games at meaningful times of the game! We quickly realized this false promise took a back seat (way, way in the back!) to WINNING no matter how many “bench-girls” self esteems were destroyed. and when winning comes at that cost, you realize then that the team, the club is really just about the adults and their sense of accomplishment and the money. Competitive clubs shouldn’t guarantee equal play time but the other end of the spectrum (no- or next to no -play time) is abusive and families and the players (the children) know when they’re being abused. Really, club coaches who embrace this type of playing philosophy are basically abusing children and should not be allowed to even go near a child!! Thankfully this club in Colorado Springs closed shop in 2009 but some of their coaches filtered out to other volleyball clubs in the area, which is very sad, because their abusive ways continue all the while they smile and promise the families of the children they’re abusing that “things will be different as long as Susie keeps plugging away at my practices . . she COULD earn some play time!” Jeez . . .just writing that makes me want to retch!

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