Sixth grader should quit this basketball team

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  December 11, 2009 06:00 AM

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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

Mom2,

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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8 comments so far...
  1. If the league was billed as for 6th and 7th graders, then you should speak to whomever is running the league about it if your son wants to play. He shouldn't be the only younger boy on the team, particularly if the coach is such a jerk. It's reasonable to ask to have him switched to another team - it happens all of the time. If they won't switch him, or if they say he's the only 6th grader who signed up (or something lame like that), I'd encourage him to quit, as he's going to have a lousy experience.

    Posted by akmom December 11, 09 08:38 AM
  1. I see this as a fantastic opportunity for your son to learn more about how to make difficult decisions, how to weigh options, AND to gain some insight into how parenting works. He is bright (and probably perceptive) so you might consider sitting down with him and having a frank discussion with him about ALL your thoughts on his participation. Don't badmouth the coach or teammates, but be honest about your reservations. Without "parenting", take him through the process of considering all the sides of each point and be honest about your ambivalence. Then, let him make a decision based on his own analysis and preferences.

    Posted by amyfaith December 11, 09 09:33 AM
  1. why not let him give it a try for a while before making the decision? the "adversity" might actually motivate him to do much better than he thought he could. if he's miserable after some weeks, then he can quit.

    Posted by no big deal December 11, 09 01:54 PM
  1. I agree that finding another, age-appropriate team is a good idea. But if he likes basketball and wants to play in the future I would talk to the coach before you make the switch. If he stays on the team this year, even if he rides the bench, will that help him next year when he is a 7th grade boy. If he could come back to the same team/ league next year with some experience under his belt, it could be beneficial form him to stay on now.

    Posted by hunterstars December 12, 09 01:32 PM
  1. I can understand why this mom wants to shield her son from the potential hurt of playing on a team where everyone is older, taller and maybe more athletic. That said, he's 11, not 2. I'm not advocating that this mom force him to play out the season, but, if it were me, I'd let the boy make up his own mind. It sounds like she wants to advise him to quit. I think this is a terrible idea. You can't protect kids from being hurt by their peers at times, and this may be a chance to build some character without having a helicopter mom involved. And if this mom steps in to suggest that he quit, he could easily come away with the impression that "Mom thinks I can't do it, so I should probably just give up."

    Completely agree with no big deal and hunterstars.

    Posted by JKR December 14, 09 09:55 AM
  1. I think a lot depends on who's running the program. A high-school-age coach may very well not be appropriate. The best thing may be to try to get involved with a program at his school with a qualified coach and, hopefully, some school friends that your son already knows. I'm not much of an advocate of "toughing it out" approaches when it comes to elementary school kids. An immature coach and derisive older team-mates may very well turn a kid away from sports for life and won't help his general socialization either. Talk to the "coach", the program's sponsors, and school officials as well. (And I really think the coach should be an experienced and qualified adult.)

    Posted by been-there December 14, 09 09:58 AM
  1. 1) I would present the options to your son as "This is turning out to be not what we thought it would be - shall we try to find something better?" as opposed to "Do you want to quit?"
    2) You also might ask the coach if there are other teams or leagues that might provide a better fit for your son's age/abilities since the others on his team seem to be older/more skilled.

    Posted by randy in boston December 14, 09 10:33 AM
  1. From your opening lines it seems your early and clear read on your son is that athletics isn't where his gifts and passion lie anyway. I agree with Barbara and others you may want to just make it clear you back decision to back away - "wasn't what we thought it would be."

    that said, wow if he hangs in there with his crew, he might well rule the court next year with his age (and height) peers.

    Posted by Stefan December 16, 09 10:00 PM
 
8 comments so far...
  1. If the league was billed as for 6th and 7th graders, then you should speak to whomever is running the league about it if your son wants to play. He shouldn't be the only younger boy on the team, particularly if the coach is such a jerk. It's reasonable to ask to have him switched to another team - it happens all of the time. If they won't switch him, or if they say he's the only 6th grader who signed up (or something lame like that), I'd encourage him to quit, as he's going to have a lousy experience.

    Posted by akmom December 11, 09 08:38 AM
  1. I see this as a fantastic opportunity for your son to learn more about how to make difficult decisions, how to weigh options, AND to gain some insight into how parenting works. He is bright (and probably perceptive) so you might consider sitting down with him and having a frank discussion with him about ALL your thoughts on his participation. Don't badmouth the coach or teammates, but be honest about your reservations. Without "parenting", take him through the process of considering all the sides of each point and be honest about your ambivalence. Then, let him make a decision based on his own analysis and preferences.

    Posted by amyfaith December 11, 09 09:33 AM
  1. why not let him give it a try for a while before making the decision? the "adversity" might actually motivate him to do much better than he thought he could. if he's miserable after some weeks, then he can quit.

    Posted by no big deal December 11, 09 01:54 PM
  1. I agree that finding another, age-appropriate team is a good idea. But if he likes basketball and wants to play in the future I would talk to the coach before you make the switch. If he stays on the team this year, even if he rides the bench, will that help him next year when he is a 7th grade boy. If he could come back to the same team/ league next year with some experience under his belt, it could be beneficial form him to stay on now.

    Posted by hunterstars December 12, 09 01:32 PM
  1. I can understand why this mom wants to shield her son from the potential hurt of playing on a team where everyone is older, taller and maybe more athletic. That said, he's 11, not 2. I'm not advocating that this mom force him to play out the season, but, if it were me, I'd let the boy make up his own mind. It sounds like she wants to advise him to quit. I think this is a terrible idea. You can't protect kids from being hurt by their peers at times, and this may be a chance to build some character without having a helicopter mom involved. And if this mom steps in to suggest that he quit, he could easily come away with the impression that "Mom thinks I can't do it, so I should probably just give up."

    Completely agree with no big deal and hunterstars.

    Posted by JKR December 14, 09 09:55 AM
  1. I think a lot depends on who's running the program. A high-school-age coach may very well not be appropriate. The best thing may be to try to get involved with a program at his school with a qualified coach and, hopefully, some school friends that your son already knows. I'm not much of an advocate of "toughing it out" approaches when it comes to elementary school kids. An immature coach and derisive older team-mates may very well turn a kid away from sports for life and won't help his general socialization either. Talk to the "coach", the program's sponsors, and school officials as well. (And I really think the coach should be an experienced and qualified adult.)

    Posted by been-there December 14, 09 09:58 AM
  1. 1) I would present the options to your son as "This is turning out to be not what we thought it would be - shall we try to find something better?" as opposed to "Do you want to quit?"
    2) You also might ask the coach if there are other teams or leagues that might provide a better fit for your son's age/abilities since the others on his team seem to be older/more skilled.

    Posted by randy in boston December 14, 09 10:33 AM
  1. From your opening lines it seems your early and clear read on your son is that athletics isn't where his gifts and passion lie anyway. I agree with Barbara and others you may want to just make it clear you back decision to back away - "wasn't what we thought it would be."

    that said, wow if he hangs in there with his crew, he might well rule the court next year with his age (and height) peers.

    Posted by Stefan December 16, 09 10:00 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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