Question: I have an amazing 11-year-old son. He is smart and caring. What he is not is very athletic or aggressive while playing sports. In addition my son is short. He wanted to sign up for a grade 6 and 7 basketball league. When we arrived at the first practice we discovered that all the other boys on his team were from 7th grade. Many of the kids were as tall as my son's dad. The high school age coach frequently asked my son if he understood the game and made him feel uncomfortable. Two of the boys on the team made some height comments. My son came home broken-hearted but told me he would give it his best to last the season. He could not understand why there were no other 6th graders on his team. So here is my question, do I have my son quit the team and explain that it is not a good match for him or do I let him feel bad about himself every week?
From: Mom2, Boston
Isn't there a more age-appropriate basketball team for him? Through the Boys & Girls' Club? The Y? I haven't done the research but I can't believe there isn't some basketball program in the whole city of Boston that's just for sixth grade boys.
Should he quit? It depends on what kind of kid he is. I firmly believe that children learn as much from disappointments and set-backs as they do from success. I don't believe in snow-plow parenting, where we remove even age-appropriate problems rather than have a child face them.
But this is not age-appropriate if the kids are all older and the coach is not welcoming, and having him stay on the team to teach a lesson about commitment (because that's what it would be) makes no sense under these circumstances.
Quitting is not quitting when it wasn't a good match from the get-go. Plus, there is a big difference not just in size and shape and strength between 6th grade and 7th grade boys but also in terms of where they are developmentally: what they talk about, what they think about, the jokes they tell...
That said, if he's determined to stick it out and he can carry his weight on the team, I can see that there might be some positive outcomes to this. But honestly? I'd let him quit. When my son was this age, he was invited to play on the Little League majors. It turned out not to be the great experience we all anticipated because these kids were all older & they weren't his cohorts from school. They were nice enough to him, and they admired his skills, but you know what? It wasn't fun. And fun counts.
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