Why youth sports team-hopping is a bad idea

By Janis Meredith | Posted 10/12/2016
Team-hopping is an attitude that manifests itself in a variety of ways:
  • When your child doesn’t get the playing time he wants so he jumps from team to team until he finds a coach who is willing to give him what exactly he wants.
  • When your child wants to play a certain position so he switches schools or keeps looking for a team until he finds one that allows him to play in his chosen position.
  • When your child jumps from school to school or from club team to club team because he can’t get along with the coach or teammates. This one is often a very telling pattern.
Team-hopping is not:
  • When your child finishes a season and moves on to the next level of competition.
  • When your child changes club teams because he or she is ready for a new challenge. 
  • When your child loves a certain coach and leaves a team to go play for him.
In Tim Tebow’s biography, Through My Eyes, A Quarterback’s Journey, he discusses how his father insisted he play quarterback and moved him to a school that would allow him to play the position. I can’t help but wonder if Tim would still be playing professional football, if his dad hadn’t done that.
Even though he was a rock-star in college and had a few bright spots in the NFL, just maybe he was better suited to another position on the field. Maybe his initial high school coaches, who didn’t want him playing quarterback, were on to something when they concluded he was better suiting to other positions. Something to think about.
It is important that sports parents ask themselves, if you let your kids set a pattern of coach/team-hopping, then what message are you sending your children?
The message you send tells them it is okay to jump ship every time something gets hard. You are telling them that it’s okay to run away when things don’t go the way they like.
I’m not necessarily saying that you should never change teams or schools. Instead, I am pointing out that when a child makes team or coach-hopping a habit, then it often continues throughout his youth sports career. In fact, you are encouraging a habit that can potentially follow your child through the rest of his life.
I knew a young athlete who changed schools several times throughout middle and high school. He was constantly looking for a better athletic situation. He never needed to change schools because he moved to a new neighborhood. Instead, he switched schools often because he was looking for an easier situation.
Today, he is now a young adult who has worked a half-dozen different jobs in the past four years. His habit of jumping around began in middle school and has continued into adulthood. He’s constantly looking for something better, more specifically, something easier. When a situation isn’t either of these, he figures it’s time to move on.
Call it a restless spirit, call it freedom or call it anything you want. The truth is, the habit of running from uncomfortable situations results in the deprivation of growth through challenges.
Although it can be scary, change is good because it challenges you. However, from what I have witnessed, youth sports team-hopping is more about avoidance than change.
The decision to change teams or schools–for the sake of sports–should not be made lightly. It certainly shouldn’t be made habitually. 
Prior to making any decision, be sure to examine all of the potential risks, benefits and downfalls before making a change. Examining the costs involved in such a change will help you to make wiser choices and keep you from jumping ship at every storm.
Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called jbmthinks.com. Her new book 11 Habits for Happy and Positive Sports Parents is on Amazon.