When kids fall out of love with a sport

swim lanesWe can’t all be rabid competitors.  That’s the line I have to keep repeating in my head as I explain to my daughter for the umpteenth time why we have her in competitive swimming.

My wife and I have known for some time that she doesn’t love swimming.  She enjoys the company of her teammates, and generally tolerates the sport.  She will be a high school freshman next year, and now, after several years of being on one of the top developmental clubs in the country, she’s asking me if she can run track in high school…instead of swimming.

This after she hated running when we had her and my son on a youth team years ago.

There are a lot of factors that Sandy and I take into account when we discuss this.  Money and time spent to this point (which has been considerable), Jana’s level of ability, her coach’s assessment, her personal reasons for asking, our desire to keep her physically active and healthy, and, of course, our own love of running.

On one hand, she is a better-than-average swimmer, and has the potential to be successful at the high school level, and possibly beyond.

On the other hand, I don’t want to force her into doing something she dislikes.

On one hand, we want her to be involved in sports – especially healthy ones that she can enjoy for a lifetime.

On the other hand, this club team is expensive.

On the other hand…well, you get the point.

Here’s the thing:  I get where she’s coming from.  I really do.  Anything that your parents really want you to do becomes a chore if you don’t love it as much as they do.  On days that she’s not happy to go to practice, the fact that she still has to go is a grating feeling, like an itch underneath the cast on your arm.  The fact that it’s beyond your control makes it ten times worse.

But I think there’s a piece of the big picture she’s missing:  Her club is a huge machine, with kids swimming out of ten different locations.  The kids who are on the elite level (she isn’t) get a lot of personal attention, while the rest remain relatively anonymous.  When they go to meets, they don’t know many people beyond their local swim group.  When they go to meets, there is no “team” feeling.  These big meets don’t usually have relays, either.  So what I think she’s missing is that feeling of belonging, and being invested in what’s going on.

I think she’ll understand and appreciate that once she gets to the high school level.  The feeling is different when you’re swimming relays with people who sit with you in class, when your friends are cheering you on in the stands, and when going to meets includes messing around on the bus ride instead of the ride to and from with mom and dad.

We just want to get her that far, so she can see the difference before she makes a permanent decision.

Still, I sense her frustration, and we’ve talked about this a lot lately.  It took a while for me to get to her root concern:  the number of practices.

She is a budding artist.  She carries her sketching pad with her everywhere she goes, and most of her spare time is spent with pencil in hand.  Her main concern is that she’ll have to practice with both her club and her high school team, leaving her little time for homework and no personal time for her art.

OK – that’s a valid concern, and one I can address.  Under the guise of finding out about tryouts for next year, I emailed the high school swim coach, and asked about the training schedule, and how the school team meshes practice with club teams.  Turns out there are no added practices at all – great news.  On days the club team doesn’t practice, she’ll swim with the school team.  In weeks that the school team has a meet, at least one practice must be with the team.  Pretty simple.

I relayed this, and she seemed to be relieved.  At least enough that she’s willing to give swimming a try in her freshman year.  In return, I told her she could run track in the spring.

After that, it’ll be up to her.

2 thoughts on “When kids fall out of love with a sport

  1. Getting into the heads of teenage daughters can be pretty tough as I’m learning the hard way. It’s tough to get out of the way and let her be good (or just mediocre) at what she loves. As my one blogger friend says “Cherish these few years” when you can share daily with your daughter what she loves.

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  2. You’re absolutely right. All we can do is try to put them on a happy, healthy path. We do our best to nurture, and to give her opportunities in and further exposure to the things she enjoys, while guiding her towards things we think will help her in the long run.

    The problem is knowing when to hold firm, when to loosen up the reins, and finally, when to step aside.

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