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Why Athletes Quit a Team and What to Do About It.

Many high schools have very successful athletic programs with high participation rates, many opportunities for young people, a good level of competition and coaching, and teams that do well.

And you still find athletes dropping out. Why does this happen?

In areas with high unemployment rates and a rising number of single-parent and dysfunctional families, there are students who legitimately have to work. In many other areas you find students with various forces competing for their non-academic time.

And so we can draw up a list of the common reasons given by young people for quitting a team:

1. "I have to work because of family needs." As previously mentioned, this can be a legitimate plaint.

2. "My parents want me to improve my grades." While academic achievement is certainly mandatory for student- athletes, it is often used as an excuse to quit the team. Note: National studies show that athletes in season have higher GPAs than most non-students.

3. "I need to a get job." Unlike the student who "has to work," this one is usually pulled out of the bag by students who are looking for a job simply to get their own "wheels."

It is a lot easier to say, "I need a job" than "I want a car more than I want to play sports."

The real reasons for kids quitting a team are as follows:

1. "I'm not playing enough (or not starting)."

2. "I'm not happy," which can also be associated with the athletes' playing status.

3. "I don't like the coach."

4. "I'm not having any fun." (Which is, after all, the main reason most kids go out for a sport.)

5. "I'd like to play, but it's not cool with my friends."

Regardless of how honest the reason is, what can a coach do to prevent athletes from quitting? Good communication is the key. By utilizing pre-season candidate meetings, brief team meetings before or after practice sessions, teachable moments during the season, or individual player conferences, a coach can explain his personal philosophy:

1. What roles the players have on the team.

2. How the starters are determined.

3. When and why substitutions are made.

4. What abilities or traits are needed on offense and defense.

5. What constitutes a good, positive attitude or what distinguishes it from a poor attitude.

6. How hustle, a good work ethic, and other intangibles fit into the total equation of team success.

7. The coach's philosophy and approach to the game.

8. How practice sessions are structured and why.

Even a coach who thoroughly covers these topics may have to counsel a player who has indicated a desire to quit. At this point, the coach must try to present the following ideas:

1. Most athletes attain higher grades during the season, because of better time management, the desire to remain eligible, and self-discipline. Borderline students who drop out usually wind up with lower grades and fewer opportunities for a college education.

2. If academics (the No. 1 priority) is a legitimate concern, the athlete should be allowed to seek extra help from his teacher. (Being given time off from practice.) Obviously, these meetings would have to be scheduled beforehand.

It may also be a good idea to have the teacher confirm the tutorial time schedule.

3. Explore the reasons given for seeking a part-time job. Is it for a car (and the privilege of paying repair bills and insurance coverage)?

Point out that unless a young person is lucky enough to go on to play on the college level, his athletic career will usually cover just two or three years. All the summer or recreation league games he plays will never come close to compensating for the high school experience he lost by dropping out.

4. The values, fun, and memories derived from playing on a team will last forever. Many famous people remember their high school athletic experience as the most enjoyable years of their lives.

5. Another excellent approach to the dropout problem may be through the parents. If the parents are supportive of both the athletic program and the coach, it may be possible to enlist their help. Parents may attempt to reinforce the coach's position on several basic concepts:

Sport offers many good lessons in life. One of them is commitment. Once an athlete commits to a team, he should complete the season. If the experience isn't enjoyable or what the athlete wanted, he can do something different next year.

Quitting is an easy way out and this can become a very serious pattern in life. Learning to deal with problems is much more productive than simply quitting. Facing up to reality is a valuable asset in every walk of life.

While every effort to dissuade an athlete from quitting should be made, it is not written in cement. An athlete who is disruptive, who has a negative influence on the team chemistry, should be allowed to quit.

It becomes of much greater concern when you find several players quitting the team. That could mean that the quitting is not athlete-centered. The problem could very well be the coach, particularly where you find athletes dropping out year after year.

The trend will have to be investigated by the AD. Questions to explore:

1. Is the coaching being fair to everyone?

2. Is the coach being too negative about his athletes' concerns?

3. Are the athletes having any fun while working hard and striving to win?

4. Does the coach clearly communicate his expectations?

5. Is the coach consistent in his discipline and criticisms of the player?

After a careful analysis, the AD may have to make some recommendations to the coach with regard to his style, philosophy, and approach, and then continue to monitor the situation, If, after a period of time, the massive quitting doesn't cease, it may become necessary to replace the coach.

If you still find athletes quitting despite good athletic programs, concerned coaches, supportive parents, and remedial programs, you may have start educating and counseling the athletes,

The answer has to be there. It is simply a matter of pressing the right buttons.

Dr. David Hoch, Director of Athletics, Eastern Technical H.S., Baltimore County (MD)
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Author:Hoch, David
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 1999
Previous Article:COACHE'S CORNER.
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