It is well known that most successful football players start playing the game at a very young age. However, only a handful of those who start practicing as kids actually make it to the professional level once they are adults. In Scotland, thousands of teenagers compete every year in the Scottish Youth Cup and other competitions. Over the years, those numbers dwindle significantly and many promising young players end up going down a different path.
In this article, we summarize the main reasons why teenagers quit and find potential solutions to them. With some luck, parents and coaches will be able to use the article to help promising youngsters stay in sports or recognize whether it is the time to move on and find a different road to follow in life.
So let’s take a closer look at the most common reasons that teenagers have to quit football and some general tips on how it can be avoided.
Burning out is a problem not only in youth leagues. It is one that teenagers and adults alike can fall prey to. Football is an immensely demanding game if one claims for success at a professional level, which is why parents and coaches who see potential in young players often push them to their very limits trying to unleash their potential in full.
However, while pushing things to the limit can be successful with some kids, others simply can’t take the pressure, so they quickly burn out and stop producing results. Under such circumstances, many teenagers simply feel overwhelmed and decide to stop playing the game altogether, as it stops being fun and starts feeling more like a job than anything else.
While it is true that youngsters need to train hard to develop their skills before it is time to play in professional teams, it is also important to let them have fun on the pitch and enjoy the game in full instead of letting them burn out and begin to resent football.
Injuries are another common and one of the most understandable reasons to stop playing football. Young bones heal faster and better, but severe injuries at a young age can put players out of commission for an extended period of time and also bring a certain dose of frustration into their game that never completely goes away.
Parents and coaching staff should always do a good job of making sure that young players play carefully and avoid harsh tackles at all costs, but it is next to impossible to avoid injuries in sports entirely.. If a young player under your patronage does undergo a difficult injury and wants to quit the game, it is often best to let them pursue a different career.
The more severe injuries often result in doctors banning the youngster from playing altogether, which can be a big psychological hit to kids who still enjoy the game, but one that must be accepted. Many young careers were destroyed by injuries over the years and this remains one of the most common reasons for quitting to this day.
Falling Prey to Bad Habits
Teenagers are known for their rebellious nature. You never know when they get an idea to try something forbidden, whether it is alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, or gambling.
Drugs and especially alcohol are quite common in British youth parties. According to Drinkaware report, 44% of youngsters aged 11-15 had drunk alcohol at least once. And if they form a bad substance habit, their education and sports career goes upside down.
Another threat to your talent’s sports career is underage gambling. Even seemingly better regulations than in a case of alcohol distribution don’t stop half of million of 11-16 teenagers from betting on sports and gamble regularly. This number has quadrupled since 2016.
It’s harder to lure teenagers into gambling, as its advertising is forbidden in youth leagues. However, the fact that all major competitions in Scotland are sponsored by leading gambling operators adds fuel to the fire, let alone the prevailing gambling sponsorships in the UK as a whole. And just imagine: some of the Premiership players are younger than 18, take Harry Cochrane from Heart of Midlothian.
Scottish Women Football Association has rejected gambling sponsorships. But for the known reason, male leagues can’t help it, so only a healthy environment in the team and great support can prevent young talents from falling victim to this industry.
As talented and promising as a young player may be, the fact is that most humans have multiple interests. In many cases, football is one of their earliest passions of young kids, but they often get interested in other sports or activities as time goes by.
Parents and other adults should always guide teenagers in making big life decisions, but it is important to let them make up their own mind at the end. If a young person decides that another interest is more important than football, his or her wishes should be respected.
One thing that adults can do is to try to encourage the youngster to understand their potential both in the game of football and in the other field they are passionate about. The passion that burns stronger will likely prevail and you should certainly allow the child to pursue it without hindrance.
Top 5 Tips for Parents and Coaches
Keep them in school: Regardless of kid’s football talent, never let them put school on the back burner. Training is important for a promising young player but doing well in school is equally as necessary.
Teach them respect: Being respectful to coaches, their teammates and opponents is one of the crucial things a young player should learn. Teaching a youngster about fair play and respect on the pitch will fuel their passion for the game and make them a better player and person.
Keep it fun: As an adult, you may see a kid as a promising talent with a bright future but the truth is that all kids want to have fun. Keeping football fun at all times is a way to keep them in the game and encourage them to train even harder and better.
Keep track of their company: Bad habits are everywhere around us in the modern world and teenagers are more susceptible to them than any other group. Make sure you know who your kid is hanging out with, what they are doing and spot any troublesome behavior early on.
Let them do other things: Football is a great game but children often have many interests which may include other games, sports or just hanging out with their friends. Make sure you let them have the time for leisure activities and don’t press them into training so hard that their entire life turns into one big training session.
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