There comes a time when every athlete is either forced to quit or chooses to leave their sport. It just seems the latter is happening at younger ages than when I played. The statistics back this up too; that more and more young athletes are walking away from their sport, never to play it again.
We know the physical and mental health benefits of keeping active so the question is why are they quitting and what can we do as leaders and parents to keep their interest and energy in the game.
The following are just two examples of why athletes choose to leave the game. There are likely hundreds more; however, the basic premise of the other reasons are likely to revert back to these two.
1. THE FUN HAS GONE
I believe most athletes enter their sport for the same reason…it’s fun. They don’t mind the hours of practice because, at some level, there’s a positive reward when getting better at their game.
In the early stages, coaches focus on an athlete’s skill and skill development. They understand that they must build a foundation and positive reinforcement is thrusted outwardly even when the most basic movements are achieved. It’s an athlete’s personal triumph.
2. IT BECOMES ALL ABOUT WINNING
At some point in the athlete’s journey, the switch from personal triumph changes to wins vs losses. Achievements are recorded as victories or defeats. It’s no longer about personal growth and thus the positivity becomes intermittent.
The athlete associates winning as the only positive reward and is unable to find good when they lose. If the losing continues then the athlete begins to self-loathe and the focus of personal achievement is forgotten.
THERE IS GOOD IN LOSING
As coaches and parents we need to look for the positives and communicate them to our athletes. Mistakes and errors are just learning experiences. No athlete is perfect and every sport is about minimizing mistakes. Bring it back to personal achievement.
Did I do my best?
What did I do well?
Where can I improve?
I stress to my athletes that we don’t control wins and losses; we only control the effort we give. I say this so that, even in tough times, the focus can be internalized. Losing to better competition is acceptable when one puts their best effort forward.
The gauge then returns to personal triumphs.
- Adam Bennett is the athlete coach & mentor at International Hockey Academy Florida in Clearwater, FL. Visit www.ihaflorida.com for more information.