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Responsible Sports: Handling Grades and Sports

October 15, 2012 02:48 PM

Should my child be allowed to continue playing sports if her grades are dropping?
Last month, a Responsible Sports Parent wrote to our panel of experts to ask: 
LM_Ask_the_Expert"As a father and coach for my daughter’s 11-12 year old soccer team it pains me to place her on academic probation for her grades dropping below the agreed upon level for her to participate in sports.
Am I wrong for holding her to this agreement?"
- Samuel, a concerned Dad
We asked two of our experts to weigh in. 
Susan Boyd, Parent Blogger, had this to say:
First I want to applaud you for setting academic standards for your daughter.  Sports offer wonderful benefits for kids such as exercise, teamwork, and developing perseverance.  However, sports can rarely provide a future for our children’s lives.  Instead our children need to depend upon intellect and specialized trade skills not only to have careers but to operate in a complex society.
As a coach, I’m sure you want all your players helping out the team.  But imagine if a player’s parents came to you and told you that they were reluctantly making her sit out until she brings her grades up.  I am certain you would support those parents’ decision.  By setting the standards for your daughter you made it clear to her what you value more.  If you break your word then you are telling her that actually you put succeeding at sports above succeeding at academics.  That implied message could lead to less investment in her academics and further testing of all your boundaries since this boundary wasn’t firm.
Consider if she got an injury that required rest to heal, but the doctor left the door open for playing with the caveat that it could make the injury worse and possibly chronic.  You would have her rest rather than risk permanent injury.  She needs to concentrate on healing her grades right now.  She will be angry and some team parents could also be angry at losing her as a player.  But you are a father first and a soccer coach second. 
 It also would be important to find out why her grades dropped, especially since she knew soccer was contingent on keeping them at a certain level.  If you don’t solve the underlying problem, you will continue to have this situation crop up.  She may have been testing your limits, which she now knows you will maintain.  However she may have learning issues such as bad study habits.  It could also be social issues such as bullying at school.  Talk to her teachers, religious instructors, and other coaches to see if they are noticing anything.  Most importantly talk to her.  Don’t accuse, listen.  But stay firm.  You set the rule, she broke it, and now there are consequences.  Let her know that if she is having trouble maintaining her grades then she needs to let you know as soon as they start dropping so you can help.  If she’s doing her part, then you can revise the rule to accommodate that investment.
And Tina Syer, Chief Impact Officer from Positive Coaching Alliance answered:
Dear Samuel,
As tough as this is, you are not wrong for holding her to this agreement. In fact, I think you’re quite right to hold her to this agreement. This is the time when your daughter is learning whether or not "rules" matter. If you don’t hold her to this, she could learn the wrong life lesson – that she can break agreements and feel no consequences. That would actually be you doing her a disservice. Being a Responsible Sports Parent is not always easy!
With this said, you can also do everything in your power to help her raise her grades. I’ve heard of some coaches that ask players in this position to attend a "study hall" during what would normally be their practice time. This may work especially well if there are other players on your team in addition to your daughter that are in this position. You might also talk with your daughter about how her performance in the classroom is affecting the team. At 11-years-old most kids are not thinking about how their grades affect anyone other than themselves. Finally, this situation may be a catalyst for your daughter, where she is motivated to go to her teacher to ask what she needs to do to raise her grades (as quickly as possible).
Are you a coach or parent who has a youth softball question you’d like to pose to our panel of experts?  Visit us on Facebook and ask your question today!  We regularly post answers on and each month we’ll feature one question here at US Youth Soccer.


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