What Do I Do if My Child Hates Practice?

by Justin Sayban

Question:Lately my child stops me at the door and asks, “Do I have to go to basketball practice today?” When I ask why, she says, “It’s not fun.” But in our driveway she’ll play pickup for hours. Should I be worried?

Discussion: This is a classic warning sign that your kid may be close to quitting organized sports. Over seventy percent do so by the age of thirteen. In your backyard, your child remains engaged because she is creating her own experience. That’s great. Keep her out there playing with friends, making up games, and devising and revising rules. But her involvement in organized sports can also be beneficial as she gets older and her desire to socialize grows.

There are no easy answers here. When you think about your kid quitting sports so early, various scenarios flood into your mind. What if she becomes bored or depressed at home? Will she have trouble making friends? You don’t want her to become passive, watch too much TV, or gain weight, either. Then there’s risk-taking behavior, a worry for every parent. If she leads an inactive life and has too much time on her hands, anything can happen, right? If she stops playing sports now, will she ever get the chance to excel and play at the high school level and perhaps even in college? Let’s take a deep breath and not get ahead of ourselves, and instead just tackle the issue at hand.

Solution: Before you try to convince your kid to stay with the sport she’s playing, stop and think about it. Maybe she is right. Maybe she needs to spend a bit more time participating in free and semi-structured play. Arrange more backyard time for her. You can also take her down to a skate park if you have one nearby, or to the climbing wall at the local gym, if one is available. The important thing is to give her a chance to try out a range of activities.