When to quit baseball

If you’re a youth baseball coach, at some point you’ll inevitably have to deal with players who “quit.”

And that’s the first thing I’ll say.  Quitting sometimes gets a bad wrap during times when it should be respected, even admired when done bravely.  Sometimes “quitting” is exactly what needs to be done.  Sometimes quitting is 100% the right thing to do, the selfless thing to do, the brave thing to do.

“We don’t raise quitters.”

Some parents hang their hat solely on this peg (while simultaneously being just fine with a long pattern of terrible attitudes and effort).  Hmmm.

The result is a kid who is miserable for years (literally) on end…all because of some mistaken notion of what quitting really is.  What’s better: to have a kid wears dread on their sleeve because they’re “not quitters” or to have a kid move on and spends their time and talent where they can actually flourish (let alone enjoy themselves)?

Sure, quitting is bad halfway through a game.  Quitting is bad just because things are tough.  Quitting isn’t ideal when you’ve made a commitment to a team for a specific season.

But in between seasons, or even at the very beginning of a season (preferably before games begin), quitting is a necessary part of life.  It’s normal.  Especially around the age of 12-14.  Junior high is the age where most kids figure out what they do and don’t want to do.

Sure, a 13 year old doesn’t always see the big picture.  Sure, we still parent 13 year olds (sometimes more than 6 year olds…can I get an amen).  But sometimes it’s as clear as day: it’s time to move on.

What are some of those clear as day signs?

Well, there’s no formula.  Life is too complicated for that.  But certainly, if…

  • The player dreads going to games and practices (especially games).  Complaining, complaining, complaining.
  • The player picks up a bat or ball only during practices or games (never at home) for 2 years and counting.
  • “I’m only here because my parents make me” has been heard by a teammate or coach (especially multiple times).
  • Frequent tears or fits before and after games with words like “I hate baseball” and “why do you make me do this?”

I mean, these sound obvious right?  But if you’re a coach reading this, you know firsthand examples of kids who check 3 of the boxes above for 3 years in a row and are still playing!  ?

More likely, however….what about the kid who likes baseball?

They love playing catch around the house.  They don’t mind practice or games.  But they just realize (again usually around age 12-13) that they 100% don’t want to play school ball or any kind of competitive ball?

Well then don’t “quit” all together.  Just find the right team!  There’s NO shame in this.  In fact, getting this player off a team that’s competitive or otherwise intentionally preparing kids for the next level is a selfless act.  It opens up that spot for (what likely is) a long line of other players waiting to get on that team.

And that leads me to a final point.  Many times you don’t need to quit baseball.  You need to quit the wrong team.  I know many kids who love baseball, but not enough to play travel ball for 60 games a summer.  That’s fine!  It’s NORMAL people!

Good for your kiddo (and family) if he actually wants to spend some time at home doing family things a few weekends per summer!  And good for you as parents if you’re secure enough to actually make this a priority when choosing your team.

“I just want to be a part of THIS team.”

Some kids DO want to play school ball because the LOVE baseball.  It’s also with their buddies.  And it’s a part of their identity.  It’s what they do.

But they realize full well they might not see much playing time at all.  Still they show up every day and GRIND and WORK because they love baseball and love being a part of the team, even if it means sitting the bench cheering on the team relentlessly.

I can tell you: this kid is welcome on any team with a coach worth a pinch of salt.  If that’s his attitude and actions, quitting just because of playing time would be a tragedy. 

He’s not playing for playing time. He’s playing for the love of the game.  He’s playing to belong to something bigger than playing time.  Don’t take that away…because it’s truly special.

Wrap up.

Obviously this post doesn’t cover all the bases.  And I know first hand that quitting can be extremely difficult.  I’ve been there as a player and now as a coach.  It’s hard because we’ve all invested a lot of time in baseball.

It’s really hard when we’ve put too much identity in baseball.

So don’t over complicate it.  Look at the big picture.  Pray.  And at the end of the day realize that very few decisions are final.  If a kid “quits” when they’re 12 and the love comes back (or they hit puberty and everything changes…haha), then goodness gracious, start playing again.  Sure, it might have to be for a different team, but that’s probably for the better.



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