As a Director of Sport in a state school I’m dealing with the issue of trying to get academic staff to commit to running school teams. Its a tough task that I’m honestly finding harder all the time, especially with the increase in my colleagues workload and the uncertainty of PRP looming over them. However 3 days back into job after half term and its student commitment that I have had to deal with. A number of students are quitting school sport and a lot of these have been supported by parents. I’ve had some difficult conversations both with the students and the parents. Some have been supportive, and others have been just plain rude, but all I wanted to do was get my thoughts about commitment across, not change minds. The three main reasons that parents gave me for their child leaving school sport were:
My child isn’t being selected for every fixture and he is the best player. Yes your child might be the best player and yes might be not selected for every fixture. But this happens. In every team.We select on the following criteria; 1. Attendance at training. No train no play, no matter how good the child. 2. Effort at training. Since reading a blog post on the excellent www.thetalentcode.com I grade effort of students at training from 5 (Excellent) to 1 (Poor). I share that grade with them via our VLE. Repeatedly poor effort results in not being selected. (I may blog about this in the future as I think this has helped my practices). That is it. However I do take into account previous performances in matches, how many games they have played and the strength and quality of the opposition into account. I want my school teams to be competitive, but I want every child to have the chance to compete. That, one weekend, may be at the expense of your child. It is a team after all.
My child isn’t having fun. So as soon as your child isn’t having fun, it’s okay to quit? Speaking to Dr Richard Bailey on Twitter enjoyment as well as success is an essential part of sports and being involved for life. I agree with him completely, especially within PE lessons. But surely not every training session for competitive sport needs to be fun? Or even every week or month of participating in a sport should be fun? Especially now the nights have become dark, cold and wet. There are times when things get hard, not just in competition or training, but in your personal life. There are times when training and playing competitive sport is frustrating (you should try coaching it for 20 years). Continuing through it can give your personal life some clarity and potentially reduce the stress it may be causing. Working though those times teaches resilience that will serve your child well long after they leave the sport and hopefully continue their journey on a healthy and active lifestyle. Of course a pattern of not enjoying sport might signal that it is time to reconsider your child’s participation within that sport, but surely a single period of time that is “not fun” is not a good enough reason to quit.
My child isn’t going to make a career out of this. It’s not like we are going to become a Premiership Footballer, so there is no need to take this seriously. “We” are not doing the sport. “He” or “she” is. However, dear parent, you are correct, your child is not going to become a Premiership Football. Around 1.5 million people in England play football at the weekend. There are around 4600 professionals players in England. So even to become a professional footballer in England there is only 0.3% chance, let alone a Premiership player. I say this not because I don’t think your child is talented. I say this because almost nobody’s child is going to become a Premiership Footballer (especially if you are English) so, the odds are that I am correct. Your child plays a sport to learn discipline, to commit to something beyond their own self interest and to challenge themselves physically and emotionally. The process of taking it seriously is an extra, secondary to all the other wonderful physical, social and mental benefits it can bring. Joining a team teaches responsibility and commitment. Don’t lose that valuable lesson for your child.
However sometimes it is time to step away and move on to another sport or activity. I know and understand that your child’s interest in things will change, especially through puberty. All of a sudden their peers are more important than both you and me. Don’t worry I believe that’s a normal part of growing up. Over analysing single incidents is not healthy but do watch out for patterns that may occur. Enjoyment of sport can dwindle and change quickly as much as their latest fashion or current crush. However if it is time to move away from a school sport that your child has already committed to then encourage your child to see something through to a logical ending time (preferably the end of a season). Assist them in formulate a plan as to what they will be doing next so are not without a physical outlet, too many children I know drop out of sport with no excuse and no back up. Finally, and I think this is the key for all teachers who coach sport; get your child to say good-bye (a possible thank you might not go a miss, but I’m probably hoping for too much here). We teachers put a lot of time, energy and effort into running teams. Some of us can get quite emotionally attached to what we do, especially as it is above and beyond our job description. We do it because of the benefits these opportunities can provide. Endings are hard, especially for children and the temptation will be to disappear off into the dark winter nights of November without a trace. Don’t let them do that, teach them to leave with some dignity and honour, no matter how hard it might be to do. We, and I think their teammates, will truly appreciate it.