Should My Son Quit Football?

I am a father. My sons live with their mother in a small town in the foothills of Tennessee. My eldest son is away with his team at a pre-season camp. Four football practices a day for a week. Let that sink in for a minute. They practice at 05:30, 09:00, 13:00 and 18:00.

He will be a sophomore. He called me tonight in tears and told me he wants to quit football. He had reasons and all that practice wasn’t one of them.

I am a friend. A friend of mine from my hometown in New Jersey has a son who will be a sophomore. My friend wrote me a couple of months ago. My friend was concerned because his son wanted to quit football.

I am a head high school football coach in Massachusetts. Of the 24 kids who ended freshmen year with us and will be sophomores next year, 11 have quit football; most at the end of the school year.

For most football players, moving up from freshmen ball to practicing with the varsity is a big transition. More than anything sophomore year is about paying your dues and taking your lumps from the older kids. Sophomores usually don’t play much other than JV, yet they practice just as hard. In fact practice is usually harder for them because sophomores are not as physically and mentally mature as most of the juniors and seniors they face each day.

Contrary to popular belief kids are not dumb. They see all of this work and little reward. The problem is these guys tend to think short term. They think of immediate gratification and not delayed gratification. They want to quit because they are afraid of the work, the competition and the growing responsibility. Yet, they are not developed enough to realize the benefits of paying ones dues; of putting time and a heck of a lot of effort in with no proportionate reward on their horizon. But their horizon is short sighted.

As a friend and coach, I said my peace. Football, this regimented, grueling, enterprise is worth it. It is invaluable in what it can teach a young man. But those lessons are not immediately apparent. The incredible worthiness of those lessons are only realized later, towards the end of the high school career and then the move on to college, work and family.

A couple of years ago six players were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. During their induction speeches three of those players told stories of how they had quit playing football until some parent or coach talked them out of it. These guys reached the pinnacle of their profession, yet they would have never made it had they quit in high school.

Now I’m very pragmatic. I realize none of these kids, including my own, has more than a sliver of a chance to play on Sundays. I have been coaching 20+ years and have only coached one kid who made it to the pros. But in all that time I have coached I have never once had a kid tell me he regretted playing football. Never once have I had a kid tell me he wished he had quit and done something else; or nothing at all.

In contrast, I have had scores of kids tell me they wish they had stuck with it and not quit.

What happens is people realize it’s not about all that practice, weight lifting, time at camps, time missed with girlfriends, and dealing with teammates and coaches you can’t stand. What they realize is that it’s about the man you become. The man you become as a result of dealing with all that sweat, blood, pain, sacrifice and inconvenience.

Football players get put in so many ridiculously difficult physical, mental, social, and competitive situations that they learn to deal with darn near anything. They come to lose their physical, mental, social, and competitive weaknesses and replace them with character and mental toughness. Guys who don’t quit are stronger people than those who do quit.

I didn’t see this coming with my son. He loves football. He worked hard all spring and summer working out with his teammates. Yet the call came. Here I am a thousand miles away. Yet I had my answers. I had my words. I was prepared to help him thanks to my friend and all those boys who quit my team.

I told my son how I never once pushed him to play football. He could have played soccer. He was the one who decided to play football. I told him how proud I was of him. Proud of the excellent student, excellent citizen, and great son and brother he has become.

I told him I would be proud of him no matter what.

But you bet your ass I told him not to quit. Not because of me but because of him.

I told him to get through the 4th practice of the day and to call me. He pulled himself together and he made it through.

He called me and I told him all of the personal reasons why he should not quit. I tried to help him see what his life would be like without ball. He doesn’t have it easy down there. Football gives him a means to get out of his house.

I told him how football was far and away his best sport ( he plays two others). I told him how he might want to play in college someday and how his teammates would be more like him in college than his current high school teammates. In short, if he plays college ball he would be surrounded by student-athletes and not just guys playing ball.

But more than any other thing, I told him football would teach him things no other sport, except maybe wrestling, ever could. It would teach him how to be tough. I told him he already learns character from the kids in his AP and Honors classes. But he also needed to learn how to be tough.

I told him in order to become all he could be he would need both; character AND mental toughness. I told him I loved him, and I would help him through. But I also reminded him, it’s not about the person you are this moment, it’s about the man you become.

The man you become. That’s the goal to stay focused on. It’s not about the teenage years. No, those years are a means to an end; the man you become.

He has 12 more practices within the next 3 days. He told me he would get through this week. He promised me we would talk Saturday and he would not tell me what I want to hear, but what he really felt.

I love my son. That’s why I will do all I can to make sure he doesn’t quit. Some day he is either gonna thank me or tell me he wished he had listened to me.

This isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve been through this a hundred times, almost twenty times this year alone. I know how this ends.

I want what will help him later in life, so I’ll keep praying for him to find the strength not to quit.

Update:  My son is still playing football.  Football players all have their moments when they want to quit.  They all can readily give a thousand reasons to quit. But when you come to realize that you are a competitor and want to be the best man you can be someday, you press on and do what will make you better, and not what is easy.  I am proud of him.  I am grateful for the ability to keep the focus on what is most important; the man he will  become.

A new class of Pro Football Hall of Famers was inducted yesterday.  As always, I watched the ceremony and listened to what the players and their inductors had to say.  I have done this as long as I can remember.  Each time I am a better man for watching the ceremony as there are always great lessons in character and mental toughness to be learned.  Once again many of the players spoke of the moments when they didn’t want to play football.  Willie Roaf’s dad, Jack Butler’s college roomates, Curtis Martin’s high school coach, pastor and mother, Dermonti Dawson’s coach, all convinced them to play football and/ or stick with it.  These players all recognized that they are better men for the lessons they learned playing the game.

Curtis Martin, in particular gave an incredible speech.  I hope you get to read it.  Here is a link.

Please check out my book “On Character and Mental Toughness” by clicking here.

About coachbillmoore

Educator/Author/Speaker/HS & NCAA Coach Character Coach Read Coach Moore’s book “On Character and Mental Toughness” Paperback available at Barnes & Noble or Amazon. "The measure of your character and mental toughness is the space between what you are doing and what you could be doing." -Coach Bill Moore
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30 Responses to Should My Son Quit Football?

  1. Bill, I’ve nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blog Award. See the nomination at Congratulations and thanks for your terrific posts. Dave

  2. Ona says:

    My son quit football. He was an average (or better) JV player. Coach tried to convince him to continue, and called again to play (varsity). He is fast, strong but not heavy. Should he play or use that time to study as junior year is difficult. He is a good student. I assume he will not be playing much but coach needs him for speed (?) and he links my son.

    Will he show disrespect to the coach by not playing? Will playing as an average player help getting into good colleges?

    Thank you for your quick response!

    — Ona

    • Ona,

      Thank you for writing. Here is a previous piece that I wrote on this subject that may give you additional perspective.

      I can’t really speak for your son’s Coach.

      Personally, I never feel disrespected as a coach or otherwise. Instead, I maintain that when someone does something that would generally be considered disrespectful, their action is a reflection on their character and not mine.

      If your coach thinks like I do, I would say he just wants to see young men fully challenge themselves so they can become the best man they can be.

      I hope this helps.


      • Ona says:

        Thank you, coach for getting back quickly with good details. The link is also also very helpful. My son mentioned that he wanted to continue because of friendship. Hope he choose to continue after having conversation again with his coach.
        – Ona

  3. Nanette says:

    My son wants to quit football! He is a junior and this is the 2nd week of the season and Coach asked him to help out the JV team and would get more play time; he is embarrassed and feels like he had finally paid his dues and made it to Varsity. He is wanting to quit if he doesn’t get more play time at the upcoming Varsity game..this is his 9th year as a lineman..his coach is not one to give praise or reasons for his decisions..I don’t want him to be a quitter! Nan

  4. Kathy says:

    My son is going through the same tough decision right now in his life and he is in his senior year as Quarterback. He hasn’t missed a practice and always puts in 100%. Friday night was his 3rd game of the season and they played a team that isn’t very good. I believe the coaches felt he should have done better considering the level of his competition. He played very good the first few games and his stats are very good. The coaches continually hang over his head that they are going to pick the starting Quarterback each week. We had two kids transfer from other schools that are backup Quarterbacks and the one gives our son a hard time about competing for the starting position. We as parents feel our son is not treated right by the coaches but we try and keep our opinions to ourselves. Today my son was told the 3rd string Quarterback was going to start and now my son wants to quit the team. He feels the coaches are ruining any chances he has to play college football. I don’t blame him and I didn’t know what to tell him tonight because my feelings are selfish. I don’t enjoy watching my son go through the mental games with the coaches. I feel they need to teach my child and encourage him and lift up his confidence. Instead I see them tearing him down and using the other kids as threats to try and get my son to play perfect. This article really helped me as a parent and realize my feelings really don’t matter this is my son’s decision and I need to support him. I played High School sports but I never had coaches play mental games with me I always knew where I stood on the team. I would have though regreted it if I would have quit. Thank you for your article and opening up my eyes. I do believe it is hard for a coach to teach your child to improve if the parents are speaking against their coaching abilities.

    • Kathy,
      Thank you for your comment and insight. One of the hardest parts of coaching is seeing a kid work hard and not being able to get him more playing time. My solace truly comes from keeping the focus where it should be; it’s about the man he will become. Through his continued effort and courage in dealing with adversity he will be able to draw on these lessons later in life and be a better man for it. Lessons he would have never learned had he not stuck with it. He is also teaching us all about what it means to be selfless and dedicated to the team. I wish you and your son all the best.


      • Anonymous says:

        Thank you Coach for your reply you have a wonderful website and my son has read through it. He didn’t quit the team and he probably won’t. The game tonight was very hard for us as parents. His coach has decided him and another Quarterback will share time playing. Dylan started tonight and did well. They put the other QB in and made a lot of mistakes which caused the other team to score. Dylan went back in and took the team the team down the field to the 5 yard line and they put the other kid in. Dylan’s stats are good but I as a parent have a hard time with a coach who can’t decide who the main QB is. All I can think is this coach is robbing my son from any chance to be able to play in the next level. Please set me straight. It is hard not to express my feelings to the coach. This was a rival game both teams undefeated. So it was a hard loss tonight. I never dreamed I wouldn’t enjoy watching my child playing sports.
        Thank you for your time

  5. Kamran says:

    i am currently a senior in high school and i am going through the same bull shit on my varsity team. i believe that i am one of the best receivers on the team and my coach doesnt give me any play time. coming into the season i was starting receiver and i missed a day because i was throwing up and now that we have three games left i still have no receptions and barely and play time. i can do anything any of the other receivers can and i can do it better and i still dont play. i have thought about quitting a couple of times but i am more competitive than anyone you know. i will do anything to gain the upper edge. i spend my days off working out and running until 2 oclock in the morning when my mom calls me and asks me to come home and sleep. i dont smoke like other kids on my team because i know it will slow you down, and i do everything my coaches tell me to do, including miss out on field trips. with 3 games left i dont know what to do, ride it out and spend the rest of my weeks working hard in practice and miserable on the bench during games, or just tell my coach that i am not happy with the time i am receiving and stop showing up because he does not recognize my talent. please give me some advice, i have spoken to him about play time, time and time again. He told me straight to my face that i was not going to play because he was happy with the players he has in now. there is not much more i can do communication wise and hard work/effort wise so please tell me what else there is that i can do.

    • Anonymous says:

      My son stopped playing football when he became a junior. He loved football and took whole summer to decide not to play football anymore. He weighed friendship against time and hard work. He does not believe playing varsity is an honor because he is not a recruit (that’s my son, not me). He has not looked back since then, is happy focusing on academics. I still feel sorry that he is not playing but kids tends to adjust fats.

      Kamran, your situation is kind of similar to my son. Moreover, you are in the middle of season. Coach is not expected to change in a few days or weeks. You might consider slowing down (do minimal work out and running) seriously, and focus on academics or something you enjoy. I would then revisit my situation, talk to coach again if that helps, may be skip some days, or quit if nothing helps.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yup it seems everyone is giving me the same answer, skip or quit. I fucking love football sorry for the profanity. My passion is football and my kryptonite is the bench. I’d do anything to get on the field. I have tried different positions, different approaches listening to everything the coaches said in the offseason, it just doesn’t make any sense to me anymore. I’d fight Calvin Johnson for this position, I would get killed but I wouldn’t give up. With only 3 games left and 0 receptions on the season I don’t know what to do anymore.

      • All of the hard work football players put in is too much for ten games a year, but it’s not about that.
        It’s about the character & mental toughness you learn from all the difficult circumstances players find themselves in on a daily basis.
        It’s not about football.
        It’s about the man you become by playing football.
        It’s about the man you become.
        Never lose sight of that. That’s the goal.
        It’s about the man you become.

      • Anonymous says:

        I agree! My son has not quit and a lot of different things have happened throughout the season that he has had to make some tough decisions on. He is going to be a better man because he has stayed on the team and has overcome the adversity thrown at him and he has proved to be a leader over and over again. What my son has learned is to never take responsibility for what a coach thinks of your ability continue to work hard one day that will all pay off. Life is a lot more than Football but what a team environment teaches you is something you can never replace no matter what type of coach you have they are learning too we never quit learning.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I found this blog through a friend of mine today, and it really hits home. My son is RS freshman in college, he is a walk on player and I guess after being the big man on campus in High School his ego is taking a hit. He told me today that he wants to quit football, that it is no longer his dream, however, he is still with the team practicing and lifting every day. I have watched him fight harder for this than anything else and it is breaking my heart to hear him say those words. I really dont know where to turn anymore. I believe he has quit trying to be better, he only gives excuses not solutions and I am really at a loss. Thank you for this article, I am hoping that he will come around and realize that it is more about the man that this will help him become.

  7. Kathy says:

    I wrote on here back in 2012 about my son wanting to quit playing football because of how he was being treated. Well my son is now starting quarterback for the local college and beat out the kid that was put in front of him in high school. In fact the college coaches put the other qb in a different position and he quit the team. You can never beat the kid that never gives up!! Thank you!

  8. John Smith says:

    Please help my son is starting his junior year. He has played varsity level sense his freshman year. He is a kid that demands respect on the field. He had over 13 sacks blocked 3pats last year. He’s top in the D line. At the end of season we ordered a new helmet he got what ever he wanted and he got the best. At the end of season last year he tore all ligaments ln his ankle and got knocked out with a double helmet to helmet triple team which resulted in a serious concussion. We have an ex-pro O line coach he can’t stand always yelling at him. Which is why he won’t play O line. Dose’nt respond well with his coaching tactics. He sat down with head coach and myself and said he’s not playing this year he hates it he’s done. We’re sick about this. Coach has told him he’s not just quitting High-school football but his chance’s for college ball as well. Which he said he wouldn’t play at all. He is built like a football player 6’3 255 and has a God given talent. I’v been coaching football for 7 year’s and have had this talk with many kids but my own son. I need help with this one. Thanks Coach Smith

    • Ona says:

      Sorry for the delay. My son was not good but really wanted to play for team spirit. Coaches wanted him badly but he chose not starting junior year partly because he felt he had two concussion. He weighed academics against something he did not enjoy anymore. That was a great decision and it paid off college admission.

  9. Angie says:

    My son is 11. He absolutely couldn’t wait to play tackle football! After the first week, conditioning week, he wants to quit. Tomorrow the team starts practicing with full pads. I am hoping it will be less running and conditioning and more drills, contact, and play calling. How can I talk with him about sticking it out without guilting him to play? Is he too young? Do I talk with his coach about it or will that make it worse for him? I truly hate to see this light go out in him.

  10. Judy says:

    Well coach, telling a Junior “focus on the man you will become” doesn’t help.
    My son is a Junior, he has been at every practice all spring, and summer. He works with a trainer (a friend of his coach) every week. He does every thing that is asked of him, and then some more.
    What do I say to him when he sees the kid that was not at every practice, that didn’t show up for summer workouts get a starting position?
    I’ve told him to talk with the coach, and ask “what do I need to do to get on the field?” One of the problems I have seen from coaches is when asked this question, they tell the kid to just work harder. Well how much harder does he need to work, and on what?
    I’m just as frustrated as my son is, and I don’t know how to help him. He does have some college interest thanks to going to camps, but the one thing they ask for he can’t give them, and that is highlight film. He can’t very well produce a highlight film if he doesn’t get on the field.
    Please do you have any suggestions?
    Thank you Judy

  11. Taylor crumley says:

    I quit football but i do want to come back next season cause i miss the game so much but how do i come back.

  12. Andrew says:

    Coach Moore, I came across this site searching for answers. I am so heartbroken and struggling to process the situation. My son was a high school superstar. With many undefeated seasons. Was recruited by a DII school but they never made any real offer. Was desperately recruited by a DIII school and after much discussion he went with the DIII school based on better chances to play sooner. He is finishing his Freshman year. His JV team went 5-1, and he dressed for 3 varsity games (but didn’t play). They finished the first Saturday practice of Spring Ball this past weekend. He called and said he is quitting football. I’m devastated, but my response was understanding and supportive. Proud no matter what. Said all the right things till I can hopefully try to turn this around without imposing on him. He says its no fun anymore and his knees hurt so bad he cant walk up the stairs to his dorm. He has been a Center since PeeWee ball. He has never (or rarely) complained physically. Played through anything and would not come off the field. Even with mandatory study hall for Freshman he says he cant keep up with his classes. I think his knee pain is just an excuse. I’m open to it being a real problem of course, but after all he has accomplished and the character he has demonstrated I’m at a loss for how to deal with this or what to do. I saw this process (of football) for everything that’s described in this blog. Its not about the football. Its about the man he will become. Staying involved. Keeping out of trouble.
    There is no reason for him to stay there without football. He can go to Community College way cheaper. So he plans on coming home. I feel like something more is wrong. But I risk straining our relationship. Want to let him make his own decisions but try to guide him. But this is just unbelievable. I feel so lost and helpless. I don’t know what i’m looking for. I just have no one I can talk to that would have any real insight. We have both made so many sacrifices over the years to get to this point (and expense!) I just cant believe its going to just end like this.

    • Andrew, thank you for sharing your story. I am sorry to hear that both you and your son are going through a difficult time. My son finished his senior year of playing high school and chose not to play in college. He joined ROTC in college. His football experience helped prepare him for ROTC and ROTC has continued to challenge and mold him. He’s just a great young man. Hopefully your son finds something challenging which will help continue to strengthen him as well. My best to you both.

  13. JILL RUSSELL says:

    I have a son that is a junior in high school and after playing since the age of 5 came home today and quit. We have moved alot due to my job, and the coaches played kids they were familiar with and my son who has started both offensive and defence his whole life just wanted a chance to prove himself. He is now regretting his decision greatly. Question you may be able to answer. Could my son play as a senior, even though he did not play as a junior? I see him hurting from this decision but don’t know how to help him

    • Anonymous says:

      My son quit football in junior year as football takes a lot of time. It was a difficult decision for him as he valued friendship. He was not good but his coach really wanted him to stay. He soon forgot about football and did not want to go back. It hurts but kids adjust quickly as they get really busy with college prep.

  14. Anonymous says:

    My son is 15, just entered his sophomore year. He’s played football for 8 years. He shows a passion when on the field I rarely see in him elsewhere. Last year as freshman he started every game until the score was ran up to a blowout, then he was pulled and the kids got playing time. He had an exceptional year and had a BLAST. He loves defense. DE, LB, anything where he does the hitting and gets to go after the rock. at 15 years old, 6-2 and 185, he has no issue hitting the gym daily, is in weight lifting at school and watches his diet like a hawk. He is all in and always has been. Until two weeks ago. He went through voluntary summer workouts fine. Then mandatory 5 days per week started for the JV squad. I started to hear the mumblings of him and his friends about what players coach has already decided to start even though they aren’t that good. So and So are practicing with varisty or moving up. Etc Etc Etc. Now with three weeks until the opening JV game he wants to quit. Says he doesn’t get enough reps in practice to show himself, coach has already made up his mind, it’s only a 5 game season (Our JV team notoriously has problems filling a schedule since most other JV teams around play our freshman team and our JV team just demolishes other teams) So essentially he states that he will never get to play on varsity next year due to the lack of opportunities this year. Head coach told him a couple weeks ago that he wanted him on kick return and also in some special package plays on offense. He simply responded “Ok, I guess” and took that as if he was being pulled from the defense he loves. I talked to the coach, and he stated that was not the case, they love his energy on the field and hard work in practice and want him on the field, that he just sometime seems not interested. That I feel is a communication issue on my son’s end. He disagrees. Remember, according to him, coaches mind is made up! GRRRRR. So I asked my son one simple question. If you new you were starting, would you still quit. He answered quickly…. “No.” I know if he quits he will regret it. I also know if he continues to work hard, he will succeed. I just don’t know how to convince him!!!


      My son’s High School coach made him second string under another kid that was brought over from another High School. We were all upset and our son thought about quitting and possibly moving to another school. We didn’t do either. He played out his last year sharing the position. What did happen is both boys went to the same community college after High School and our son became the starting Quarterback and the other boy was put in a totally different position. My son didn’t give up even though he wanted to and in the end it paid off. He is now coaching at a local High School and a very happy man. Maybe that story will help some? We look back now and realize it wasn’t as big as we thought it was and staying with the team was the more important factor.

      • Anonymous says:

        Kathryn thank you for sharing that! That’s great! I know the reality of playing at the college level or even on Sundays, and education and character/toughness are the most important to us. Almost every good friend my son has he has gained from a sport, especially football. I know he would regret this.

      • KATHRYN TOUVELL says:

        You are welcome! Good luck!! My son is a better coach now because of the things he experienced! It is all for a reason 🙂 Have fun watching him and cheering them on for the season!

  15. Kevin Murphy says:

    My son is in his first year of football as a sophomore. He says he is wrestling this year and does track as well. The issue with his high school football is they have been practicing since the first day back from Christmas break (January). Having played in high school and college while also having coached Division II college football, what I see in high school now is ridiculous with the practice one sport all year long time commitment. The voluntary (mandatory) conditioning all winter, spring and summer if you want to be on the team is a spoken well known. The four hour practices throughout the school week plus JV games on Saturday are too much. Everyone that dresses will letter which should be motivation to stick it out for the season. He says he is going to quit. He likes the game, he loves the physical contact, but the hours are taking its toll. I have been in his face to at least finish what he has started. If he stuck it out for the next two years he would definitely be a starter on either offense or defense in the interior line. Most parents walk around drinking the cool aid that this amount of time is how it should be. If he finishes the season not playing football ever again is his decision. I agree with all these posts that kids get it. Two hour practices are the norm, because after two hours you no longer have the attention of anyone, much more a high school student athlete. Time always tells all. Hopefully he takes the rest of the season one week at a time.

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