Coaches: What do you do if a child wants to quit the team?I coach a Speech and Debate team for middle school students.  The team has 12 students, in individual teams of 3 students each.  One of...

Coaches: What do you do if a child wants to quit the team?

I coach a Speech and Debate team for middle school students.  The team has 12 students, in individual teams of 3 students each.  One of the students told me over the weekend that she wants to quit.  The other two students on her three person team are angry, hurt and frustrated.  They feel that the reasons she has given for quitting are not valid, and they feel that she is breaking her commitment to them.

This is my first time as a coach, and I do not know what to do.  With one team member gone, the other two cannot compete unless one of them takes on her role.  Neither feels ready to do that.

Any suggestions out there?

10 Answers | Add Yours

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I would be interested to find out more about the student's reasons for quitting. Clearly it appears that there is more going on there than meets the eye, so it would be worthwhile to have a chat with this student and try to establish if there are some team dynamics that have gone awry or if there is anything that you could do to help. However, I, unlike other posters, do not always think it is a bad thing to quit, depending on the circumstances. If she has made a commitment to the team and the event is coming up soon, you might want to encourage her to finish off the event and then quit, but she may have plenty of legitimate reasons for wanting to quit.

megan-bright's profile pic

megan-bright | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

I agree with the poster who stated to have an alternative as a backup for future occasions. Is it too late for another student to join in at this point?

I would start by asking her why she wants to quit. It could be personal problems, home problems, health problems, or she could be overwhelmed. It is best to see what the situation is and how to help her get through the situation.

I do not agree with the sentiments that we should never quit anything. If she is sick or depressed, the extra responsibility of being on the team may be too much for her to handle and she will be justified in quitting. But it is probably a long shot that those are the reasons she is quitting.

A concrete decision on what to do lies with finding out her underlying reasons for wanting to quit.

The other teammates will really have to learn that this type of thing is a part of life. They will have to learn that they are ultimately only responsible for themselves and that they cannot control anyone else's actions. I do believe that having a backup would be great, and if she is quitting for "selfish" reasons then I do empathize with them.

lmetcalf's profile pic

lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

While I agree that the child probably shouldn't quit, I also can't imagine how well this is going to go if you goad/guilt the child into staying.  If he/she wants to leave -- no matter what the reason -- they they want to leave.  What kind of effort is the child going to put forth if he/she doesn't have the intrinsic desire to be there?  It seems to be a disservice to the other two members to have to now work with someone who at one point declared he/she was not interested.  You clearly need to assess the reasons for the desire to quit and go from there. 

kapokkid's profile pic

kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

If it is really just an individual thing, I would generally just allow them to quit as long as they were willing to talk to me and explain their reasoning, etc.  When they have teammates that depend on them, I would be far less willing to just let them walk away.  In the end, the kid is going to make a decision and allowing them to do that is important (in my mind) but when it comes to putting other kids in a bad situation, they have to be able to work through it or I would expect them to finish the season before they walk away.

missy575's profile pic

missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I agree with all the idea of not quitting. This is an American ideal that we always want to see developed. We never give up. Perseverence is a value.

Personally, I am thinking this kid has a responsibility to the other two. This is what you need to point out. He or she made a commitment to the other kids and breaking that commitment is wrong. I would check with the parents and see what is going on. Quite often, they will be on your side of the issue, or they are the ones making the child feel like quitting. Get to the bottom of it with them. Ask what values they want their child to take from the experience.

In the future, be very clear with your debaters about the demands of the team. I have coached Academic Decathlon. We always needed students we very specific GPAs and not having a kid show for a competition or have a family emergency cost us more than one school record or honor. This responsibility needs to be communicated with your kids up front.

You might also consider having 2 alternates in the future for your teams. These might be younger kids who are going to be leaders the following year and you could use them as if they are "in training". But they will also serve to fill that gap if a kid moves or experiences a significant family emergency. These are just ideas for the future to help avoid the same problems.

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

There are two issues here: 

  1. Quitting is something that one should not do because once one quits, quitting the next time becomes easier, and a person easily can begin a pattern of quitting.  Undoubtedly, quitting is a very bad habit to get started.
  2. When one commits oneself, one accepts the responsibility of following through, not only for oneself, but for others.  Belonging to a team of any kind involves commitment to others.  Again, there is a bad habit waiting to develop.  If one does not respect the duty that one has and accept his/her responsibility to others, it will later be easier for this person to ignore other responsibilities to others in relationships such as family, friends, and spouses.

Two very important virtues can be developed in children when they join groups and stay with them:  fortitude and loyalty.  Do the parents not perceive the value of making their child stick to his/her decision and commitment?  Can the principal also assist in your efforts to convince the student to remain?

Such opportunities for building character that come from being on teams are truly important.  Hopefully, the parents will feel this way, too. (All too often students have returned to their alma mater to visit, and they say that they rue quitting different organizations, teams, etc.)

ask996's profile pic

ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

As her coach, it's up to you to find out her reasons and the veracity thereof. Talking to her yourself might reveal misunderstandings that she has or had about the activity and her commitment to it. It could simply be self-doubt telling her she can't do it successfully. it could be personal issues that others don't know about. Yes, she did have a commitment to the team, but that doesn't necessarily mean that breaking the commitment is wrong. Of course, find out the truth depends upon the sense of closeness and trust you have built with your kids.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I've only coached sports so I've never been in this kind of situation where you literally can't compete without a particular child.  However, I don't think there's anything you can do if the kid really wants to quit.

When I had kids want to quit (again, they were never as vital to me as yours is) all I could do was to try to talk to them about why they wanted to quit.  I would try to change things if any of the reasons were things that I could, in good conscience, change.  I would try to point out any flaws I saw in a kid's reasoning.  In your case,  I would suggest pointing out to her that her teammates need her.

But beyond that, you can't force her to stay...  One last thing -- I think (without knowing the kid in question) that the more you seem to be pressuring the kid, the more likely she is to dig her heels in.  So I would try to play up the idea that it is her decision and that you are just trying to help her do what's best for her.

Good luck -- it sounds like a tough spot to be in...

fm-alchemist's profile pic

fm-alchemist | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

what do you mean if she wants to quit it's her right as a human to say i no longer want to do this and move on.

goldenlocks4's profile pic

goldenlocks4 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

you should talk to her and her parents and find out what the real problems are, then you shoul have all three girls to come in and talk it out .maybe she have problems at home or with her grades, there is always reasons for someone wanting to quit something, or maybe she does not feel confortable doing it any more. Just try to be her freind and find out what is wrong.

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