Did you know that many girls drop out of their sport by age 14? Yikes!
I can’t tell you how many times I receive emails or messages from parents that go something like this…
I hope you can help. My daughter is 14 years old. She has so many opportunities ahead, but she wants to quit. We’ve already put in so much time and money to this sport. How do I get her to want to play softball again?
First of all, there are many possible factors affecting how any particular player feels about the game. You cannot “make” someone love this game. They either do or they don’t.
Aside from players that simply aren’t interested in softball (they’re meant to do something else!) common issues that can cause your daughter’s love of the game to diminish include:
- major drama with teammates
- coaches that kill player’s spirits
- bad sports parenting
Notice that last one? Yes, it’s true. Sometimes parents are the reason their daughter wants to quit. I’m sure you’ve seen it. You know it’s true.
If you want your daughter to stick with this game and enjoy it to it’s fullest while making sure you’re not the one who drives your daughter to the quitting point, here are 7 tips to keep in mind…
Tip #1: Exercise Positive Reinforcement
Women’s Sports Foundation research shows that boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 9 — and their parents — are equally interested in sports participation. However, girls are more likely to drop out of their sport by age 14. Girls simply do not receive the same positive reinforcement about sports participation that boys do. Boys often get sports related gifts for birthdays and other special occasions. Boys have tons of sports role models to look up to on TV, in video games, and in the newspaper.
The same is not true for girls.
Without all those outside sources, the majority of that positive reinforcement falls on you. Show your daughter how interested you are in her sports activities. Make sure your actions and words support her participation. One way to do this is to attend practices and games whenever possible.
Also, after her games, let her know you love watching her compete. Refrain from lecturing or punishing her for mistakes she made.
Tip #2: Expose your Daughter to Women in Sports
Take your daughter to local college or professional games. Watch women’s sports on TV, especially if the fastpitch softball is on the air. Show her what’s out there for her to accomplish one day. When your daughter sees women playing sports, she’ll appreciate and respect the advanced sports skills of the athletes she sees. She’ll also be able to imagine herself excelling in the game which can provide motivation for continued participation.
Tip #3: Be a Role Model
Show your daughter that sports is a part of life by exercising regularly. In a study of collegiate female athletes, and non- athletes, athletes reported having more physically active parents than the non- athletes.
Yes, that means you have to get up off the couch and do something rather than sit in front of the TV and eat dessert. Don’t worry, you don’t have to go crazy and you can still watch TV and eat dessert if you want to.
Just do something active on a regular basis, even simple family walks around the neighborhood helps show your daughter that physical activity is just another regular part of life, like eating, sleeping, and taking a shower. If you do more, great! If you can invite your daughter along and make it a fun family affair, even better.
Tip #4: Focus on the Process
Pay more attention and place more importance on the development of your daughter’s skills rather than on specific athletic accomplishments or lack thereof. For example, notice and acknowledge your daughter’s progress over the last week or month. Show her that you noticed what she did better in this game than in the last one. Focus less on how her stats compare to others and more on how she compares to where she came from.
Tip #5 Think Before You Speak
Your daughter may not show it, but you’re words are SO important to her. Insensitive comments, or ones made when emotions are high, can lead to medical disorders. A preoccupation with weight and body image can have a negative effect on your daughter’s health. Over-exercising while under-eating can cause your daughter serious problems both short and long term.
Even when not related to body image, your words, comments, and attitude toward your daughter’s sports participation or performance can boost her up or bring her down. Be a safe place your daughter can rely on when adversity strikes and challenges arise. Give her the confidence she needs to compete and to get back up when she gets knocked down. Don’t BE your daughters main source of stress and adversity. Your job is to support her efforts so she can soar!
Tip #6: Keep the Game Fun!
Fastpitch is a game. It’s supposed to be fun! I’m sure you perform better when doing something you enjoy. You probably find it much easier to find or make time for activities you love. The same is true for your daughter. She’s more likely to excel in and continue playing a fastpitch softball if it’s fun for her.
Athletes that stay in their sport over the long term typically enjoy participation. Success often comes about as a byproduct of dedication to something fun not the other way around.
Tip #7: Don’t Mistake Success for Fun
Just because your daughter is good at what she does, doesn’t necessarily mean she is having fun. In fact, athletes that excel may feel added pressure to perform. If this pressure becomes overwhelming, playing fastpitch softball may become more stressful than fun.
I know you want your daughter to be the best. But don’t forget to be proud of her no matter what the outcome!
When your approval, and acceptance of your daughter, seems conditional, or dependent on performance, you add more pressure to everything you daughter does. The last thing she should be worried about is how her performance will make you feel about her after the game. I know most parents say they love their child no mater what, but do your actions and words SHOW that when things don’t go well? How does the ride home in your car feel to your daughter? Is it a pleasant experience or a dreaded one? (Refer back to #5)
BONUS Tip: Remember That Your Daughter is NOT You
Even though people may compare your daughter to you, she is not you. She may not have some of the same strengths or weaknesses you have. Don’t go nuts if she’s not as good as you were or as you expect her to be. Don’t shelter her from a situations you would feel uncomfortable in. She may be just fine in those situations and your worry may create anxiety that wouldn’t be there otherwise.
She’s not you.
Encourage her to be herself. Support HER as she is, not as you want, or expect, her to be. Celebrate her strengths and help her work through her weaknesses.
Stacie Mahoe shares lessons learned from decades around the diamond. Enjoy her unique insights on softball and life from years as a player, coach, parent, and fan of the game.