I’ve worked with a number of teams over my career and one of them few things I have never understood is quitting. Athletes that have so much talent laying dormant within them find a reason to give up. Quitting is an action that has always perturbed me for the simple fact that it is such a heavy action to take. It has such a detrimental impact on an athletes overall development as a person and also affects the entire program that they are deciding to leave so abruptly. There are many reasons why people quit. I will focus primarily on three of those reasons.
Playing Time/Role on the Team
Athletes often have in their mind a role they think she should be playing. This role many times doesn’t align with the overarching goals the program needs. When a conflict like this happens the athlete finds themself in a position that they are often unhappy with. With every game that less minutes are played it erodes the vision of a team based mentality the athlete once had into a selfish “me” mentality. They begin to question “why” they aren’t playing more, allowed to shoot more, or why they aren’t playing the position they want to. These questions take a toll on certain athletes who focus solely on themselves and not the team. They begin to think about quitting as an option. When enough time passes and enough emotions build up that same athlete quits.
The real issue:
Athletes that begin to let those seeds of negativity creep in more and more often don’t take the time to look inward for those “why’s” they ask themselves. If a majority of those athletes that quit or are thinking of quitting take an introspective look at themselves the answers 99% of the time can be found within.
“Why am I not starting over him/her?”
“Why don’t I have the green light to shoot more often?”
“Why am I not on the varsity team?”
“Why are they all conference or an All-American and I’m not?”
The answer to any question that revolves around not getting a desired result(s) boils down to effort. I personally guarantee that if you or someone you know has asked any of the previously mentioned questions, they are not working nearly as hard as they think they are. Any goal that wants to be reach requires at least 3-5 daily maintenance actions to reach goals that they want. What this means is if you know someone who quit or you yourself are doubting your role or playing time ask yourself questions like this instead:
“Did I/they put up an extra 100 shots before or after practice when no one was looking?”
“Did I/they watch film and know my opponent before game time?”
“Did I/they practice running plays after practice with the quarterback?”
“Did I/they practice stickhandling, shooting, and passing an extra 30-60 minutes a day?”
“Did I/they study my playbook and know where everyone is supposed to be?”
“Have I/they been in the weight room like I’m supposed to be?”
“When the coach corrects mistakes do I/they take his/her advice and change?”
“Did I/they get to practice right on time and leave right after?”
“Do I/they neglect taking extra time outside of practices to get better?”
“Did I/they watch film on my opponent outside of with the team?”
“Do I /they only know certain plays and only where I’m/they’re supposed to be?”
“Do I/they pretend to work out or sign in and go home?”
“Did I/they miss off-season workouts?”
If you can answer at the minimum 3 of the first set of questions with a “yes” everyday then there’s no doubt your situation will be different. Athletes who can only answer “yes” to questions in the second group or “no” to questions in the first group, well WORK HARDER! When an athlete quits because they want something they haven’t worked hard enough for is not only a poor excuse, it is literally blaming other people for their own mediocrity.
Why it matters:
Having the ability to look at one’s self, assess, and take action are critical to the growth and maintenance of an athlete from youth until they are an adult. The daily maintenance of “bettering your best” is what makes the athlete go from an accomplished team player to a fully functioning contributor to society. It’s the difference between getting a degree and working to earn a living and continuously learning to make a difference. The person that learns how to serve and play a role will take whatever craft they have and make it the best they can offer to their patrons. No matter when or where that athlete works in the future they will be a member of a team. Whether CEO or anything below playing a role must happen so that the entire machine runs smoothly.
Working in sports medicine I have seen injuries decimate an athlete’s confidence. Injuries can be very difficult to get over as it involves a very arduous process of getting back the ability to do the simples tasks and progressing to the most advanced skills an athlete can do. Athletes often give up because of the daunting task of getting back into playing shape and trusting that appendage to do anything without a second thought as it is too much for some people to get over. This is typically because there is that fear in the back of their mind of getting hurt again. They don’t want to go through the same pain again, which is understandable, so the injured/recovering athlete quits.
The real issue:
Injuries are a part of sports it doesn’t matter what level of competition. There is no single way to prevent 100% of every single injury, it’s just not realistic. While I sympathize with the athlete who has sustained an injury and understand the process that it takes to come back, it is possible to make a return. By quitting and using the excuse of an injury it becomes simply “a way out”. To look in the face of adversity and shy away from it, suggests there was no passion or drive to begin with. With all of the knowledge that exists about injuries, rehabilitation, and sports performance there is really no excuse (barring serious traumatic injury with lifelong restrictions). Nowadays every sports program has or should have an Athletic Trainer who works closely with a sports medicine team of qualified healthcare professionals. This means an athlete has the resources from the moment of the injury throughout the tenure of their athletic career to evaluate, treat, condition, and prevent injuries from recurring. So simply put there is no excuse to be had when there is an injury, it’s just a speed bump on the road to reaching a goal.
Why it matters:
The word injury is synonymous with the word adversity. Adversity exists to expose character flaws so that we can grow and and overcome that which is in the way of our success. If adversity gets the better of us once, it will get the better of us twice, and will continue to do so until it becomes second nature to just bow out every time there is a bump in the road. Quitting once adversity strikes is literally the same as killing one’s character. Adversity should be the fuel towards self realization that can propel anyone to a different level, not a deterrent from reaching goals and dreams. Starting at any age quitting sports is killing potential, it never stops there and seeps into other aspects of life. The moment adversity hits, and it will hit, that same athlete will find excuses like:
“This book is too long” so they never read it
“This class is too hard” so they drop it
“College is too expensive” so they never go
“Getting my masters is takes too long” so they never earn that degree
“I don’t think I’m qualified for that job” so they never apply or get promoted
Life is cyclical, everything will always eventually come back around. Just as the sun will shine so too will the rain come. So that athlete that’s afraid to get wet will never truly appreciate the sun.
I Don’t Like My Coach(es)
If you have played sports long enough you can probably remember at least one coach that you just couldn’t seem to get along with, never agreed with, or maybe even flat out hated. While most people suck it up and go about their business, others use them as an excuse to quit.
The real issue:
While there are some scenarios where coaches are being blatantly malicious to certain athlete’s, 9.9 times out of 10 that isn’t the case. The problem often lies within the individual being coached. Typically it’s one of two scenarios, either the athlete needs to put their ego in check or they need to change their perspective. If its the former, the athlete might want to take the time to realize that it is the coaches job to do exactly that and coach. Putting one’s ego aside and being coachable will breathe life back into the coach-athlete dynamic that fosters learning more about the sport and being better for it, instead of resisting being coached and creating a toxic environment. When it comes to the latter, changing one’s perspective, that can come in a multitude of forms. The major two are:
Looking at the coach differently
Sometimes athletes get this jaded perspective that coaches are just there to open the gym, show them what plays are in the playbook, run practices, or make decisions during games. While these are responsibilities of the coach it is not all a coach does. This perspective lends the athlete to have the vantage point that they are the one playing and experiencing the sport so they know what they are doing and the coach is just there to tell them the next drill or the next play. So the moment the coach does what they are there to do which teach skills, raise IQ about the sport, develop the athlete, and basically get everything that they can out of an athlete effort and talent wise the athlete with poor perspective can’t handle it. They get upset, and thinkthe coach is a jerk and the coach “hates me”. Eventually the athlete with this perspective will quit because they constantly fee persecuted by the coach. This is where much needed perspective comes into play. When an athlete takes a moment to see where the coach is coming from, in a positive way, it becomes clear of what they are trying to accomplish. Sometimes it may even take communicating with the coach on what he/she is trying to accomplish to actually see that.
Looking at the yourself differently
Many times the athlete thinks that they know more about a sport than they really do. So they perceive themselves as one type of player or playing one type of role while in reality that is often not the case. When a coach tries to coach an athlete with this perspective they automatically bump heads. This leads to too much friction between the two and the athlete decides that quitting is what is best for them. If that same athlete took the time to step outside of themself, they would be able to adopt a more malleable approach. I like to use two quotes by Bruce Lee when it comes to this example. “Nothingness cannot be defined; the softest thing cannot be snapped” and “Empty your mind, be formless be shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup it becomes the cup, If you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, if you put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.” These two quotes are philosophies athletes should try to adopt when being coached as it gives them the assumption that they can learn something new everyday and be molded into a better athlete consistently.
Why it matters:
The coach is the coach, there really not much that can be done about it. It is a fact that must be dealt with regardless of how much you like them or hate them. When the athlete tries to deny this fact, fiction is born. The fictional narrative of “the coach hates me” or “the coach is playing favorites” plays out in the mind of the athlete with an ego and/or lacking perspective. Yes there are times that a coach might actually be a jerk, yet it still has nothing to do with how one acts in response to it. An athlete still has to get their extra work in, know the plays, give effort during practice, watch film, and do what it takes to contribute to the team. The coach has nothing to do with any of those factors, so why does it matter? In reality it doesn’t matter. So quitting because you do not like the coach is a cop out. The athlete that chooses this route will ultimately have problems when it comes to authority later in life. They will blame teachers and professors for their poor grades and bosses for their lack of performance in the workplace. These individuals will struggle and confuse their own egos and lack of perspective on others who do not control any of the actions that they choose to take. So taking the time to put one’s self in check makes all the difference in learning and growing.
Any athlete will ultimately have to deal with the tools that they have. It’s akin to having the same seeds, the same soil, the same pot, the same water, and the same amount of sun that everyone else has on the team. All of those things mean nothing, absolutely nothing, if the soil isn’t put in the pot, the seeds aren’t put in the soil, the seeds aren’t watered regularly, and the pot isn’t put out in the sun. It is the athlete that chooses to quit whom neglects to take the necessary and consistent actions to get the directly related results. These are the people who don’t realize circumstances rarely change it is them , the individual, that needs to do the changing. Once the athlete, who contemplates quitting as an option, holds themselves accountable for their actions the thought of quitting their sport will never re-enter their mind. The only thing they will ever quit, is blaming external forces for their current situation.
Audric R. Warren