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How to Rediscover Your Love for Sport
Hello everyone. I’m Coach Sara with Complete Performance coaching. Today I am going to tackle a really important question, one that comes up often from parents.
Q: What can I do if my athlete isn’t enjoying their sport anymore?
This is an important question because it will come up no matter what sport, your athlete plays and no matter how long they’ve been playing for. It is very normal for your athlete to hit times when they are not enjoying themselves.
What I’m talking about today actually relates to an article I wrote and posted on Valentine’s day. I wrote the blog on the complete performance coaching site about how to find the love for you sport when you’ve lost it. So when you’re in a rocky relationship with yourself, what can you do?
I thought it would be a good idea today to talk about some of these ideas because this is such a common experience that athletes will at some point stop having fun and stop loving their sport, and as a parent that can feel scary, that can feel devastating, and you might not know what to. So we’re going to talk about some strategies.
Take a Beat
First of all, parents, when your athlete is talking about not having fun, maybe not wanting to be involved with your sport anymore, I want you to just pause. Take a breath and listen. Be supportive of your athlete. I know it can feel really scary to all of a sudden hear your athlete talking about not wanting to play anymore or not wanting to go to the gym. When they’ve been participating in their sport for such a long that it might trigger you, so to speak. You might think, “Oh no, they don’t want to do this anyway anymore more. What can I do?” First, just pause and listen.
Finding the Love Again
Next, we’re going to talk about how to find that love again. If your child came to you saying, “I want to quit my sport. I’m done. I don’t want to play anymore,” don’t panic. Personally, I hate the word “quit” when it comes to really anything, but especially sports. It has such a negative connotation like you’re giving up. Instead, let’s think about possibly leaving the sport and today is about how do you find that level again, but I mentioned this because there will be a time or multiple times where your athlete feels like they want to leave. If we reframe that from quitting to, “Yes, at some point you might want to leave, let’s talk about that decision. Is this right or might it make sense since they do this at another time?” And again, it’s normal if your athlete is not having fun they won’t want to keep going,
Think about it, if we dislike our jobs, if we hate our jobs, if we’re not getting along with the people there, we don’t want to keep going. You sort of have to a lot of the times, right? Or we get so motivated that we start looking for another job, but it’s very normal that if your child is not having fun, they have lost that love and that passion, they won’t want it to do it. That logically makes sense, but it can feel very scary and overwhelming for all members of the family. It’s normal to have these ups and downs and motivation.
Today, I want you to think about how you can be prepared, because your kid will come to you at some point not wanting to go to practice, saying that practices aren’t fun and they want to quit. This can help you be proactively prepared for what to do and the signs to look for. Or maybe your athlete is going through this now and you can try one or more of these strategies.
Now, if you’re trying these and your athlete is still is not having fun, then maybe it’s time for a deeper conversation asking, “What else can we try? Do you need more support in some way? Maybe this is the time that you leave your sport and shift to something else,” but you want to try first to rekindle that love.
Signs that your athlete’s relationship with their sport is on the rocks
There are a couple of things that you can look out for. Keep in mind, every athlete is different so your athlete may show it differently that they’re not having so much fun, or they’re not enjoying it. Many athletes will say, “It’s not fun. I don’t want to go to practice. It’s hard. I don’t have fun anymore. I don’t like doing this.” They’re going to tell you in some way, shape, or form that it’s not enjoyable.
The other way that your athletes might show it is instead of saying it’s not fun, they just say, “I don’t want to go to practice today because I don’t want to go. I’m just not in the mood.” They don’t want to get to the gym, to the field, whatever it is.
1. Feeling Sick
Another sign maybe they’re not having so much fun is they seem to be getting sick before practice. Sometimes our athletes might be faking it, and it’s really tempting to be frustrated and to tell them they have to go, but even if they’re faking it, it’s still a symptom of something else. Sometimes they say they’re sick and they really feel it. It’s a real, physical symptom from the stress or the frustration that they’re currently feeling in their sport.
2. Making Excuses
They will have a lot of excuses for why they need to miss – I have lots of homework, I have this project, someone invited me over and I really want to do that. They have a lot of excuses about why they don’t want to go to practice or go to a meet.
Another sign they’re not having fun is they’re getting injured in the gym or on the field. We know that accidents happen, but this is more like aches and pains. Your athlete saying, “I have a sprained ankle,” or, “Oh, my body’s really sore.” I’m not saying don’t believe them. This is not to say push aside those and pains, but take notice that if your athlete is having a lot of regular, small injuries or more aches and pains they usually do. They might be saying, “Well, maybe I shouldn’t go today. I think I need to sit out of practice.” That could be a sign that they’re struggling emotionally with their sport.
You might also notice that your athlete is complaining more about the coaches or about the teammates. Again, these things are normal. It’s not that these things show up and that’s a sign of not having fun anymore. It’s when this is more of an ongoing pattern that you’re seeing, that’s what you really want to be looking out for.
5. Losing Interest
If they’re not enjoying things that they used to like traveling or private lessons with a certain coach – certain aspects of their sports you know they that they’re not loving anymore, that’s a pretty good sign that they’ve fallen out of love with their sport. They’re also more emotional overall.
If you have preteens or teens, this could simply be their hormones raging all over the place and they don’t really know how to handle those yet. But if they just seem out of what and emotional with what’s going on, that could be a sign that they’re just not enjoying their sport and they don’t quite know what to do.
Those are some of the things that you may see if your child is falling or seems to have fallen out of love with their sports, and remember – every athlete is different. If you can notice these changes early on, you might be able to do get them back on track.
If you are feeling like, “Oh no, my athlete has been saying things like this for weeks, months … what do I do?” These strategies can still help them. So check out my blog, 14 Strategies to Fall Back in Love with Your Sport. Athletes, we’re going to go over a few of these here in a bit more detail:
1. Make a list of all the reasons you love your sport.
Now, you might not be experiencing all of these right now. A lot of you love learning new skills, but when you’re in season, you’re not learning new skills anymore, you’re just working on the ones that you have and you really drilling those over and over. That can be a point of frustration for you because you want to do new things.
So even if you’re not loving that right now, write it down anyway. Ex: I love to travel. I love going to meets. Parents, encourage them to make this list. Maybe remind them of some things you think they love and see if that sort of rings true for them. By creating this list, it’s likely to rekindle some of that love and passion, but it also can show you which parts are maybe are not happening for them right now.
If they love learning new skills but they’re not getting to train right now, maybe they can do some privates? Maybe you start working on those up-level skills for next season. If that won’t work in the situation you’re in your gym, maybe you can just remember there are only two or three months left to season and you get to start working on those skills.
You can also use that list to make adjustments to get back to the things they really love or remind them of those things that they really enjoy or you know, make tweaks so they get a little bit of that. That’s one way to go find that love again. You can also review that list from time to time to kind of rekindle that passion.
2. Find or Restart a Hobby
This is a great strategy for us parents, too. For your athletes, a lot of times they’re starting to feel a little burnt out because all they’re doing it their sport. If you can help them connect with something they really enjoy or reconnect with things that they have done in the past. It’s drawing, rainbow looms, making slime, theater, etc. Some things might be larger time commitments, which can be a bit tricky with sport. Maybe they can’t do the spring theater, but you can put them in an acting class once a week, there might the time for that.
By giving them the opportunity to participate in something that is not related to their sport, that can help them broaden their horizons and feel more balanced as a whole. It might also make them realize, “Yeah, I like drawing, but gymnastics really is so much fun. I mean, drawing is cool and all, but I get to flip through the air.” So doing that other thing can help rekindle some of the passion, but usually more often what this does is it just gives them an opportunity to experience something that they don’t normally get to do because they’re so involved in their sport.
For a lot of our athletes, especially the preteens and teens, if they’re still going, they’re seeing their peers experience so many other things and they’re seeing them do these other sports and activities. Maybe they don’t have interest in those same things that they see, but what they often are interested in is, “My friends have choice. My friends have time. I want to do things like that too.”
3. Making Time for Non-Sport Friends & Activities
Especially for gymnastics, they’re spending so much time in the gym that the people there become their family. While that’s great, if they start feeling a bit frustrated with the gym and the people there and the coaching, they just need a little bit of time with other people to experience other things.
When they’re making time for these other people, parts of themselves, these other friendships and relationships that are important, it helps them feel less resentment towards gym. Think about it – if you had to spend 60, 70, 80 hours a week at work, you don’t get to see your partner, your kids, your friends, you start feeling extra resentful of that job.
Now about your kids – they’re spending a lot of hours in school, they’re spending a lot of hours in sport, some of you drive quite a bit to get to and from these sports practices and meets. They’re pending a lot of time in school, in sports, and sure they see non-athlete friends at school, but that’s not really what we’re talking about. We’re talking about some time away to build those relationships, to have fun, and to be a kid.
4. Time for Your Calendar to be Blank
This will allow your athlete some breathing time and some room. What this might look for your gymnast during season might be hard because they have meets a lot of the weekends. If you have multiple kids you’re going certain places, but look ahead – in the next two, three, four weeks, can you put a three-hour blank chunk of time on your calendar? Cross it out. Don’t plan anything. Then, when the time comes, ask your kid what they want to do. “Okay, so what are you in the mood for? Want to relax? Do you want to sit home and watch a movie? Do you want to call up some friends and meet up at the mall? Do you want to go get our nails done? Do you want to bake?” Have some blank space allows them to feel I do have time to relax. I don’t have to have every minute scheduled out for me, I am kind of like a normal kid.
By having these pieces built-in, by giving them this extra time, they can feel and think, “Oh yeah, I can be a gymnast, I can be a baseball player, I can be a soccer player. I have time for my activities, my friends, my hobbies. I have time just to relax.” Often times when those pieces are pushed out – friends, relationships, hobbies – that’s when sport stops feeling fun.
Now, sometimes it is what’s going on in the gym. Maybe they are dealing with injuries. Does that make it tough? Maybe they’re dealing with a tough coaching situation or season hasn’t been going well. There might be gym stuff that’s happening, but let’s face it, as parents, you don’t control that world. There are ways we can impact our athletes to better deal with that, and as parents you can help with what goes on outside of the gym.
5. Creating Positive Energy for Practice
Creating an upbeat playlist of songs that make your athlete feel good can really shift their mood for practice. Some people might not necessarily respond to music and this might not be a strategy for you, but consider encourage your athlete to make a pre-gym or pre-practice playlist with all of their favorite happy and upbeat songs.
Once they’re listening to some of their favorite music and they’re dancing and they’re grooving and they’re getting into a good mood… guess what? They’re in a little bit more of a better headspace to walk into the gym.
These are just five of the strategies I suggest that you can try either on your own or together that are going to help your athletes start feeling that love for their sport again.
Now, if they have been feeling frustrated for a very long time, they’ve been saying things for a while like, “I don’t like it. I just want to quit. I don’t want to do this anymore,” if they’ve been saying this for a while, one of these activities probably will not be enough to magically change their mind and want to go back. It’s probably going to take some time. It’s going to take some adjustments. It’s going to take trying a few of these different activities or ideas and hopefully, you see some changes.
If you’re just starting to notice, all of a sudden you athlete was kind of complaining on the way to practice, maybe you’ve noticed stomach aches happening on the way to the gym – this is when you might not want to bring up, “Hey, I’ve noticed you’ve had some stomach aches, is there something going on,” because they might clam up. Instead, maybe you just say, “You know what, it seems like we’ve been really busy with gym. This weekend we have a free afternoon. What would you like to do with it?”
Or you could say, “I’ve noticed you’re spending so much time in the gym because is it season and you haven’t really had time with your friends from school. Can I help you plan something with them?”
If you’re starting to notice some of those signs and symptoms that we talked about at the start of this live, that’s when it’s good to kind of start adding these pieces in, and also letting your athletes know that sometimes, you’re not going to enjoy what it is that you do. You can kind of compare it to your job. I don’t think all of us love our job day in and day out, but that’s our job. That’s what we do. And for your athletes, school and sport are their job. So even if you don’t love it all the time, we still do it, but want to try and find ways to get back to really enjoying it as much as possible.
You want to normalize those ups and those downs, and some come up with some strategies they can apply. Depending on the age level of your athletes, some strategies might work a little better than others. Again, there are only five items here that we went over in detail to help your athletes find their love again. On Valentine’s day, I went with the theme and I posted 14 ways to rekindle that love of your sport.
If you do feel like you’re athlete needs more support on either their mental skills, or they’re going through a tough time, a lot of times I work with athletes and they’re just not having fun and they don’t know what to do, and their parents don’t know how to help, so this is the sort of thing we work on. So if you’re feeling like you need a little bit more support for your athlete, you can schedule your free consultation with me or anyone of our fantastic coaches and we can find out how we can best support your either in the community on its own or adding in some one-on-ones to give you more support if you need it.
So don’t forget to check out the blog to rediscover your love for your sport. And again, parents, there are some great strategies for you in there if you’re feeling a little less compassionate about some areas of your life.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this. If you do have any questions, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks so much. Have a great day.