This post has been guest written and sponsored by Cooper Fitness Center to bring our readers information on their summer programming.
“I don’t want to go to practice. I hate this sport. I quit.”
As a parent, your mind can start racing when you hear these words and emotions from your child. You start to wonder why this might be happening: burnout, teammates, too many commitments, self-confidence, coaches, or is it me?
Unfortunately, this exchange of feelings may be more common than we think in American families. 70% of children have dropped out of organized sports by the age of 13. So it is no surprise that 1 in 6 children are now considered obese according to the CDC. Outside of organized sports, children find many ways to entertain themselves but are increasingly overwhelmed with entertainment options that promote a sedentary and unengaged lifestyle like video games, social media and Netflix.
Every parent wants to develop a happy, healthy and well-balanced child. So when a child expresses sadness or frustration, the natural inclination is to fix it for them and remove them from the environment that is preventing them from being happy – no questions asked. However, I think the last part, “no questions asked” combined with immediately trying to change the environment or circumstance, is the biggest mistake we can make as parents. We must find the root of this dissatisfaction through questions and view it instead as an opportunity to assist the child’s development through emotional communication and learning life skills like adaptability, responsibility and resiliency.
At Cooper Fitness Center, we offer an amazing athletic development program called IGNITE! that helps kids of all athletic abilities work on their movement skills and find the joy in fun physical activity in smaller group settings. The creator and coach of this program, Professional Fitness Trainer Shannon Edwards, embraces this unique opportunity to combine fitness, sports, movement and games to help improve athletic performance. He teaches not just athletic development skills like speed, agility, endurance, strength and power, but also is very intentional about weaving in life skills throughout each session. This includes promoting a healthy lifestyle and teaching the fundamentals of fitness, along with stressing adaptability, taking responsibility and resiliency.
If you child wants to quit, try asking the following questions:
- What makes you feel this way? This seems like a simple follow-up question, but all too often the easy questions are skipped because we think we already know the answer. If you can push to really find out your daughter’s reasons for wanting to quit, you will then be set up to help her overcome the challenge she’s feeling. What she is really saying is, “I am currently not equipped to handle this situation- help!” The Fight or Flight instinct comes into play and she first wants to flee.
- How long have you been feeling this way? Many times one incident can seem so overwhelming to a child that he will weave it into his entire history and experience with that situation. However if we can help him recognize that a one-time occurrence is different than a continuous experience, this line of thinking will help teach the life skill of resiliency. Then later down the road when he has a bad day at work, he doesn’t quit his dream job. Participants practice resiliency in Cooper’s IGNITE! program by facing tough movement skills they probably won’t get right the first time. By assuring them it’s okay to fail and try again, Shannon instils this sense of resiliency in these kids so they believe they possess the ability and opportunity to improve.
- How will quitting help you and how will it possibly hurt you? And your teammates? Use this as a learning opportunity to teach him or her that every behavior has a consequence. This will help children lean toward intentional and thoughtful decisions rather than emotionally-charged decisions. I also like this exercise of questioning because it helps children acknowledge how their behaviors or decisions have an effect on others. It naturally leads to discussions about the importance of seeing a commitment through until the end, stressing responsibility – not only to themselves but also teammates depending on them in a team situation. Shannon expects his IGNITE! participants to help select their own equipment and put it away afterwards – they learn quickly he won’t pick up after them and must take ownership of the situation, which will spill into other aspects of their lives.
- How can we reverse this mindset? So your child might immediately resort to quitting as the answer. But if you really dig into the first question, use your child’s response to come up with a solution encompassing their feelings and reasons behind the urge to quit. Problem-solving skills and strategizing can only be mastered if practiced. Working with you to come up with a solution is what they are really wanting from you. My favorite skill I see Shannon stress with IGNITE! participants is working on those important critical thinking (or problem-solving) skills. Through strategizing ways to win or improve their movement pattern, he doesn’t just tell them the secrets but makes them think it through so they come around to the answer and gain confidence that they can come up with the solution next time on their own. If your child is feeling burned out, consider some time off after the season. If they are feeling too much pressure to perform at a certain level, find out where the pressure is coming from and brainstorm ideas on ways to handle it. Becoming part of the solution will make the learning opportunity “stickier.”
You don’t have to do this alone! From the very beginning, you should have the mindset that this will be a team approach including your child, their peers, the coach and yourself. Talk to the coach beforehand to make sure he or she shares your approach to helping your child to overcome challenges. Like Shannon, an excellent coach will encourage resiliency, responsibility and problem-solving skills.
Shannon also encourages good communication and teamwork through the multi-player games that are an important component of the three-week IGNITE! sessions.
If these life skills through athletic development sound beneficial to your family, learn more about Cooper Fitness Center’s IGNITE athletic development program visit their website or request more information using their online form.
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Meredith Rosson is the Assistant General Manager of Cooper Fitness Center. Meredith studied Exercise Physiology at University of Texas at Austin and has played an integral role in developing the Cooper Youth Programs since 2006.
Shannon Edwards is a certified Professional Fitness Trainer and the IGNITE! coach at Cooper Fitness Center. Cooper Fitness Center has offered youth programs for more than 25 years and provides a variety of year-round programs including basketball, swimming, tennis, boxing, martial arts, soccer and other seasonal programming.