My son is 14. He has spent two years on a competitive diving team, and from September 2019 to March 2020 was excelling at the highest level on the platform. Then COVID hit and he decided that playing with friends was more fun than dragging his butt to the pool. We agreed he could quit the competitive scene but should keep one foot in the water by joining his High School dive team in the fall just for fun, which would also keep him strong and flexible for High School lacrosse in the spring (which he has decided is now his 'true' passion). Now he is pushing back even on that, saying diving is 'boring' (which is possible, since HS only dives on 1m) and he wants to quit. I want him to continue - he has crazy skills, it is a one-hour per week commitment, it looks good to be a two-sport HS athlete (and one that excels) - and we end up in huge arguments. Is it really good to be a two-sport athlete or am I banging my head on the wall for nothing? Thanks for any advice.
PCA Response by Ruben Nieves, PCA National Director of Training
At PCA, we encourage athletes to play multiple sports as long as they want to. The opportunity to play organized youth and high school sports is a relatively short one over the course of our lives. Our experience is that far fewer student-athletes regret sticking with multiple sports than do athletes who decide to give up a second or third sport. But the key is that the athlete wants to play.
At PCA, we also support an athlete's decision to specialize in one sport, as long as it is their decision, and not one based on the pressure put on them by coaches, parents, and friends.
High school sports, even in the more casual programs, is a commitment. It is not fair to the coaches and teammates to have a team member whose heart is not in it. And it is rarely a good situation and experience when a child plays a sport, not because they want to, but because mom or dad want them to.
Now, COVID has further complicated the already complicated landscape of youth and high school sports. And it has caused some level of disruption, loss, and even trauma for all of us. And this includes high school student-athletes. Withdrawing from sports or other activities in some cases is a sign of depression or other emotional struggles. Perhaps more than ever, we parents should consider changes in behavior to be possible warning signs.
We recently led a webinar on mental health for athletes right now with PCA National Advisory Board member Dr. Gunter which we hope you'll find informative.
"Many kids have lost interest in sports altogether, and getting them back will take work. According to a survey conducted by the Aspen Institute, three out of ten kids who used to participate in sports no longer wish to. “Staying at home is the new normal,” said Travis Dorsch, Director of the Families in Sport Lab at Utah State University, who helped conduct the survey. Dorsch spoke about these findings during an interview at Project Play, the Aspen Institute initiative to repair youth sports. “The bounce-back won’t be automatic or fast,” he added."