The philosophy in my house has always been you can try anything you'd like, but you need to finish it. Quitting isn't an option. I'd love to end this black and white story here, but as we know, parenting is sometimes gray.
All my kids went through a great travel soccer program. Some successful, some not so much, but always a very good experience.
When they put together a U7 team for my son, I jumped at the chance to sign him up. He was up for it and couldn't wait to start.
He took soccer camp over the summer to prepare for the season and had a blast. His first tournament was at the end of the summer, and he seemed to understand what was going on and played with confidence.
However, shortly after the practices started, he went downhill fast. He never really seemed to run for the ball, fight for possession or show any signs of his heart being in there. I'd ask every day if he liked it and he said, "Of course I do!"
"So how can you say you like it, you never seem to look like you're happy out there?"
"I'm happy. I really like it - all my friends are there. But I do miss playing with my best friend, we practice at the same time, but not together. I get put on the side a lot."
I started watching more practices and noticed the kids that weren't as skilled were put to the side quite a bit to scrimmage and nobody watched them very much. There's a group of dads that stay at practice and critique every move the kids make. When the coach does give the slower kids attention, it's usually negative. I heard my son's name yelled frequently and it was always the coach sharing with the world how slow he was running.
I do like a disciplined coach and I think he's doing his best to train the kids, but I don't think he's the right fit for my kid. He's really more of a positive reinforcement type of child. I did talk to the coach about this, and although he was receptive to my thoughts, he basically told me I should find a different sport for my kid.
One night we had to miss practice and went to the girl's time instead - I was worried that he would feel funny being the only boy, but he came out of that practice beaming. "That was awesome and so much fun. We were way worse than the boys, but coach Kay just kept telling us how well we were trying. She was so nice to us, it was great."
I brought him back to the boys practice and slowly watched him deteriorate. He never lost his positive attitude, but his confidence shrunk down to nothing. He played in a tournament this past weekend, and not only did he not engage in the game, but he almost looked like he was getting out of the way of the ball.
Between games we went out for hot chocolate. I showed him a video of him playing and asked what he saw:
"Hmmmm. I don't look like I'm playing. Mom, can I tell you something?"
"I like soccer. I like the kids. I like my coach. I don't like that he yells at me all the time. I'm never doing anything right, so I never want to do anything at all. Also, at practice, the dads say some things that are bad too. They don't think I'm very good. I just don't want to play anymore. Can I quit?"
My initial reaction was "Of course not" But I've been thinking about it for the last 24 hours, and I'm not so sure.
I suggested maybe he play with the girls and he said he didn't want the kids and dads to make fun of him. So I'm back at knowing we made a big investment and we would lose a lot of money (strict no refund policy), and I'd be teaching him to quit instead of sticking it out. Now I know I made a mistake by signing him up for this yearlong program, but I had no idea how this would turn out.
I'm usually very opinionated and make hard line decisions, but this one isn't so clear cut. For the immediate future, we'll finish the fall season, but can I really do this for winter and spring too? Not so much can I, but should I? Are we too soft on our kids and really, they could use the strict structure, or are we crushing spirits and taking away time from a place they might soar?
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