In today’s post I want to share how I almost quit football.
I learned a very valuable lesson in my first year of organized football.
That lesson was, “Never quit because it’s too hard.”
I just read an article about how 70% of kids quit sports by the age of 13.
There are many reasons why kids quit but the big one is that they just aren’t having fun.
We need to understand why kids are quitting and above all else make sure they are having fun.
My hope is that you or someone you know might relate to this story.
Why I Almost Quit Football
When I was 9 years old I started playing tackle football for the Roscoe Lions.
I was so excited to play!
At that time, (and for the majority of my youth) I was, by far, the biggest kid in my class.
Everyone was ready for me to start playing football.
When I was 9, I had already played a couple years of basketball and baseball.
I was a pretty athletic kid for my size but I was a little overweight and a bit of a softy.
That year did not go like I had expected. Not even close…
As I look back on that first year of football, there were 3 things that nearly made me quit.
With my size, even being somewhat athletic, I was much slower than most kids.
Because of the speed difference, the smaller kids hit harder and I did not like getting hit.
Football is hard. Especially for a young, big kid.
I quickly realized that football was much harder than baseball and basketball.
Wearing equipment and running in that equipment was not as fun as I thought it would be.
This seems to be a common theme for big kids in football (and other youth sports for that matter).
Big kids are often a little more awkward and they struggle to keep up with the conditioning.
While these big kids may be growing faster they are not often developing faster.
I am reminded of this all the time as I watch my 8-year-old who is already over 5 feet tall.
It’s like looking in a mirror.
He has no clue how to use that body… but he will.
It just takes time.
2. Managing everyone’s expectations.
Everyone thought I should be really good, including me.
I was huge. How could I not be good?
When it took me a while to get going I felt like I was letting people down.
I was disappointed in myself too.
It’s weird but I actually remember that feeling very clearly.
Especially for the older, smaller kids. I was a big kid they could knock down.
And they knocked me down a lot.
It got to the point where I felt bullied.
That experience certainly toughened me up and helped me learn to stand up for myself.
Fortunately, before it got out of hand, I believe my coaches and my dad helped stop the bullying.
We are far more conscious of bullying today but it still happens and we must always be on the lookout for bullying.
Nothing deters a kid from an activity faster than bullying.
So the combination of these 3 things had me calling my dad at work nearly everyday before I had to go to football practice.
The conversation was always the same:
Me: “Dad, I don’t want to go to practice today. I don’t think I like football any more.”
Dad: “Why don’t you like it?”
Me: “I don’t know. It’s too hard.”
Dad: “Of course it’s hard. If it were easy everyone would do it.”
Me: “I want to quit football.” (crying)
Dad: “You begged me to sign you up this year. You have always loved football. If you quit football now, I am not going to sign you up again.”
Me: “It’s too hard.”
Dad: “Steve, once you start something, you finish it. You don’t quit. You don’t quit because something is too hard. You do the best you can but you never quit.”
And that was it. My dad didn’t let me quit football.
I have been extremely fortunate to have incredible parents.
My dad was a great athlete when he was younger but he never told me I had to play sports. It was always my choice.
He encouraged the heck out me.
He put up with crying and complaining.
He talked to the coaches and let them know that I was not having fun. (I believe he also had a hand in stopping the bullying.)
He ended up coaching and helping me get through that first year.
By the end of the season, I was starting to figure things out.
Football was fun again.
So often, this experience makes me think about how many kids don’t have an awesome dad like I do.
Would every dad have gone through the crying, the complaining, and the calls at work?
Would every dad step up, take time from work, and help coach so his son was more comfortable at practice?
I’d like to think so, but the truthfully the answer is no.
That’s why I feel so fortunate to have my dad.
What would have happened if my dad had let me quit?
No all-state honors as a senior.
No full-ride scholarship to the University of Wisconsin.
No Rose Bowl Championship.
No free-agent contract with the New York Jets.
Maybe… no coaching for almost 20 years so that I can help other big kids become better football players.
I learned a lesson that year that has served me throughout my life.
Never quit because it’s too hard.
I have used this with my own kids.
My oldest daughter begged me to swim competitively when she was 10 years old.
After the first week, she was crying and ready to quit. It was too hard.
The memories of my first year of football flooded back.
My dad’s voice was in my ear, “You don’t quit because it’s too hard.”
I told my daughter the same thing.
“You don’t quit because it’s too hard. You finish what you started. If you don’t want to do competitive swimming after this season you don’t have. But you can’t quit.”
After about 2 weeks she got used to the training and enjoyed it the rest of that season.
This is one of the greatest lessons of my life and I am so glad I now get to teach it to my own kids.
When your child asks to quit a sport you need to understand the real reason.
There are very few good reasons to quit football.
These are the questions I would find the answers to (and not just from your child but from coaches and other parents).
Questions to answer before you let your child quit football.
1. Are they being bullied?
This is the first question I would ask.
I would also be sure to speak to the coaches and other parents to make sure your child isn’t afraid to answer this question.
Bullying is intolerable.
A good coach will put a stop to it quickly.
2. Is the coach abusive?
Abuse comes in many forms.
From a coach, it often comes verbally.
Now I am not saying that a coach can never discipline a player.
But how that discipline is handled is extremely important.
I am big believer in “praise loudly, criticize softly”.
Youth football should be, first and foremost, about having fun.
3. Is your child in danger or hurting?
Is there a physical reason why your child is not having fun?
Asthma is big problem in a fall sport that’s outdoors.
Kids often have to deal with growing pains too.
My 8-year-old has them all the time.
Be sure to listen to your child’s complaints about pain.
Some may be soreness but if you’re not sure get them checked out by a physician.
These are all valid reasons for a child to quit football.
Maybe they just don’t like it. It’s not for everyone.
All I ask of my kids is that they try and they finish what they start.
Too hard is not a reason to quit football.
Overcoming “too hard” is how we learn.
Getting past “too hard” is how we get better.
Quitting can become a habit very quickly.
Be sure that your athlete understands that when something is hard… that’s the opportunity to really have fun.
That feeling of accomplishment is one of the greatest aspects of sports.
It will serve them forever. I know it has served me.
I hope you found some value with today’s post.
If you did please like, comment and share.