my senior athlete wants to quit / by James Leath

You pour into an athlete for years, and then in their last year, they want to quit…

If you coach long enough, this will happen to you. What do you do? I made a short video about it here. It was inspired by a conversation I had this morning with a collegiate college coach about a player on her team that is struggling to be "all in" for her senior year. Click here to check it out.

In a nutshell, I told her to give the athlete two options: No, or hell yes. Let me explain…

The first option is just to let it play out. Eventually, the athlete will quit, or there will be some dramatic exit from the team. That means all the effort, energy, resources, and love you gave that player goes down the tubes, and the story that athlete will replay in her mind the rest of her life is that her coach was an ass, so she quit.

The second option is to model adult behavior and give her a choice. As coaches, we are models of adulthood for our athletes, so how we handle situations are options for them to model that same behavior. I told this coach her second option was to call the player in, and calmly, lovingly, let her know you understand she is struggling to make a decision. It could look something like this:

"I know you are struggling with wanting to play or not. This is your decision, and I want you to know I support you, either way. Take two days to consider what you want to do. You're excused from practice and workout without consequences of missing them. Meet me back here on Thursday at 2 pm and let me know what you have decided. If you decide to leave the team, know I honor your decision, and we are good. If you decide to stay, then let's make this the best season you have ever had. How does that sound?"

It is crucial you are sincere in this conversation. If they get a whiff of BS or a condescending tone, all is lost.

Be okay with the decision, either way. Because the end of the day, at the end of the season, at the end of their high school or college career, it is their life. So, we allow them to leave the team with dignity. I know it's hard, you may really need them this season! But right now, at this moment, they need an adult to help them make a big decision. Remember, sports are a platform to teach kids how to problem solve, and ultimately, how to be an adult. You are their model, so be the example they need you to be.

Has this happened to you? Would you, or have you handled it differently?