Stuck on a Losing Team? When Is the Right Time to Leave?

Life lessons are sometimes learned and taught ON PURPOSE.

But not always.

You can bet that your actions—as a parent—often speak much louder than your words, and you might be teaching lessons you didn’t plan on.

This is especially true for instilling qualities like loyalty, perseverance, and selfLESSness. With these traits, kids definitely learn what they see and put into practice.

When you’re not careful, you might teach your child:

  • That winning is more important than loyalty
  • To try UNTIL things get too hard
  • Their personal agenda is the only thing that matters

It’s easy to recognize that these mindsets are NOT healthy for your kids and could potentially pop-up in other life accounts—wreaking havoc. And most parents would agree that all 3 of these are not in their athlete’s best interests.

Yet this is the message your kids get when you “jump” from one team to another for the wrong reasons.

So what exactly should you do if you find yourself stuck on a losing team? When is the right choice to leave?

Let’s first look at the 3 motivations to be involved in sports. And then determine if there ARE worthwhile reasons for staying on a team that might be mistaken for, “the Bad News Bears.”

What’s the Why?
There are 3 main motivations behind pursuing sports participation:
  1. For fun and enjoyment
  2. To develop physically, emotionally, and mentally
  3. For the opportunity to compete

It’s essential to look at these in THIS order if you want your child to have longevity in their sport.

Unfortunately, our culture has turned this upside down in the last decade, and many view the competitive aspect as being the most important. However, instead of producing more elite athletes, the pressure to compete at high levels has mostly resulted in burnout by the age of 13.

It might be difficult to have all 3 of these reasons met on every team, but if the first 2 are accomplished, then there is a good argument to stay on the team—even if the win/loss record isn’t what you hoped it would be.

Leaving a team because:

  • The team is losing a lot
  • Your child isn’t played as often as you’d like
  • Your child is struggling with a particular skill

teaches your athlete to look for a way to escape when things don’t go as they would like.

This approach to challenges will never serve them well.

When IS the Right Time to Leave?

So are there any good reasons to change teams?

Certainly, if fun and development are missing, then it’s worth having a conversation with the coach to see if changes can be made. If he seems unwilling to work on improving those areas, or if he seems to lack the basic knowledge of teaching the sport, you might consider other options.

Be sure to explain to your athlete why you’re making the decision to leave. It’s important that she doesn’t think that it’s okay to “bail” when you feel like it.

Additionally, it’s vital to remember that a child can have a great sports experience even on a losing team. Here are some specific things she might gain.

  • She can learn the value of her OWN contribution. That’s a little harder to recognize when you step onto a team of rock stars.
  • Your athlete will experience the challenge and sense of accomplishment that comes from building something from the ground up—with others.
  • Winning isn’t everything and should NOT be sought after, at ALL costs.

All of these truths might be TOLD to an athlete, but it’s in experiencing them that the lesson is really learned.

Have You Had To Make This Type of Decision? 

I’m here to help. If you find yourself at this type of crossroads send me a message at I’d love to hear your story and chat through the best solutions.

Sport Family Coach at

Founder of Growing Champions for Life, David helps sports parents and coaches incorporate positivity and persistence into their communication with the young athletes who count on their encouragement and guidance. An eight-time national water skiing champion, five-time national record holder in water ski jumping, former World Championship U.S. Water Ski Team coach, and proud professional sports parent, he understands first-hand the challenges and rewards of competition. His extensive experience as a corporate leadership coach for Nextel, Sprint, Allstate, Balfour Beatty, The Villages and other companies provides David with unique insight into the skills needed to excel in sports, business and life. He brings an athlete's discipline, a coach's inspiration, and a parent's practical experience to his mission to grow not just champion young athletes, but holistically well-rounded individuals equipped for lifelong excellence.

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