Prioritizing Mental Health: A Comprehensive Guide for Parents When Kids Want to Quit Sports Teams (2023)


In the wake of the recent Games cycle, athletes and coaches alike have learned the vital lesson of prioritizing mental health alongside physical well-being in sports. The decision to quit a sports team, as exemplified by gymnast Simone Biles during the Tokyo 2020 Games, highlights the growing recognition of mental health in sports. TrueSport Expert Nadia Kyba, a seasoned social worker and conflict resolution expert, provides valuable insights for parents navigating the delicate terrain of supporting a child's decision to quit a sports team.

Ensure Safety First

Before delving into the nuances of quitting for personal reasons, it is imperative for parents to ensure their child's desire to quit is not rooted in abuse or bullying. Kyba emphasizes the need for open communication, assuring children that their well-being is the top priority, not national rankings or scholarship potential. Addressing abuse or bullying promptly is crucial, requiring parents to step in and seek appropriate help if needed.

Understand Positions and Interests

Assuming safety concerns are addressed, the next step is understanding the motivations behind the desire to quit. Kyba suggests parents pause and reflect on their own positions and interests, recognizing that these may differ from those of their child. While a parent's interest may lean towards athletic scholarships, a child's interest could revolve around spending more time with friends. Recognizing these differences is pivotal for effective communication.

Explore Alternative Solutions

Encourage creativity by asking the child to brainstorm alternative ways to meet their needs while staying active. Kyba shares a personal anecdote about her daughter's struggle with soccer, emphasizing the importance of finding solutions beyond quitting. It could involve joining a different team or even trying a new sport altogether. This approach fosters resilience and helps children find joy in physical activity without succumbing to external pressures.

Empower Your Child's Decision-Making

Ultimately, the decision to quit or stay should rest with the child. Kyba advocates for a consultative role for parents, framing themselves as consultants rather than managers. Allowing children to make decisions enhances their developmental autonomy and decision-making skills. While parents may disagree with the decision initially, it contributes to the child's long-term growth and independence.

Seek Alternative Physical Activities

While team sports offer numerous benefits, Kyba stresses the importance of keeping children physically active even if they decide to leave a team. Finding alternative activities that align with their interests, such as mountain biking or exploring other team sports, ensures a continued focus on health, longevity, and social well-being.


In conclusion, fostering open communication, understanding differing perspectives, exploring alternatives, and empowering children in decision-making are key elements when addressing a child's desire to quit a sports team. The ultimate goal is to create an environment where children feel comfortable discussing their choices and supported in making decisions that contribute to their well-being beyond the current sports season.

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