Deciding Whether to Quit Your Team

A question that often appears in an athlete’s life

A difficult choice for any athlete to make is whether or not it’s time to quit a team. Not whether you want to quit your sport, but just trying to make the decision of if this team you’re currently on is right for you.

There are many factors you must consider and many reasons why you may be thinking about changing teams. But really, I’ve found that there’s no easy situation and no easy answer. That’s what makes it so difficult.

But it’s a question that appears time and again. So, what I’m hoping this article will help you do is make the best decision for yourself and feel confident in your choice whether or not to quit your team.

What Causes You to Want to Quit?

This is a tough question because there are many factors that can cause athletes to question whether the team they’re on is right for them. The answer is largely going to be specific to you and your situation.

However, there are certain general reasons that tend to lead to you considering quitting. We need to look into these main reasons because it’s important to know what’s driving your consideration in the first place.

As you’ll learn in the tips to come, truly knowing why you are thinking about quitting your team will help in feeling more confident about making your decision.

Remember, as you read through these causes, they do not cover all the possible reasons you may want to quit your team. They are just the main ones I’ve noticed in the athletes I’ve worked with.

Negative Team Environment

It’s never good to point fingers. Blaming everyone but yourself is dangerous. Every athlete I work with, I encourage personal responsibility. But sometimes, the truth is the truth.

Just as teams can have a culture of positivity, teams can also have a culture of negativity. It’s not that you’re blaming anyone, that’s just the facts.

Maybe not everyone experiences it the way you do, but for whatever reason, the team environment feels extremely negative to you. As a result, it can be difficult to enjoy yourself and perform your best.

When you find yourself in a negative team environment, it’s natural to begin thinking about quitting your team and finding somewhere else to play.

Poor Relationship with Your Coach/Teammates

Now this is something that goes both ways. But for whatever reason, if you feel as though you have a poor relationship with your coach or don’t get along with your teammates, an option is to consider quitting the team.

As a mental coach, when I see poor relationships with coaches, this typically involves poor communication on both sides.

With teammates, it can involve jealousy, competitiveness that has not been addressed in a healthy way, or maybe you just don’t get along with them.

We aren’t condemning anyone on either side of the relationship. It’s just that, if you get to the point where you have poor relationships with your coaches or teammates, it’s difficult to want to stick with that team.

Lack of Opportunity

There are many reasons why you may feel as though there isn’t much opportunity for you with the team you’re currently on. It could have to do with favoritism, differing levels of talent, along with many other factors.

Maybe you made it onto a team because you wanted the label of playing at that certain level. However, the talent amongst your peers is quite a bit better than you, so it’s unlikely you will get the amount of playing time you want.

When the team you’re on doesn’t present you with the amount of opportunity to perform that you want, a natural question to begin entertaining is leaving that team.

It’s Doing More Harm Than Good

What I mean is, staying on the team will likely do more harm than good to you mentally.

This can happen because of any of the previous causes I’ve outlined, or for another reason, but the team you’re on right now is leading you down a path where your confidence keeps getting worse and worse.

You may also be experiencing sports performance anxiety, fear of failure, perfectionism, or any other mental game challenge. Staying on your team will likely do more harm than good, in that your mental state will only keep getting worse.

How to Make the Decision to Quit Your Team

To begin, I want to emphasize that there is no right or wrong choice here. It is purely based on what you feel is best for you in the moment given your specific situation.

For example, just because you find yourself in a negative team environment does not mean you have to quit. You may decide that the best option for yourself is to remain where you are and learn how to make the most of the situation you’re in.

In the same way, if you find yourself part of a team where there is a lack of opportunity, you do not have to stay and work to see if you can get more playing time. If you feel it’s best, you can quit that team and find one where there is more opportunity for yourself.

The choice you make needs to be purely based on your specific situation. You shouldn’t feel like it’s wrong to quit if it seems like the best option for you. Just as you should not feel like it’s wrong to stay if that is what you’ve determined is the best choice.

Now, for whatever decision you make, I encourage you to put a lot of thought into it. Try not to make a decision such as this based purely on emotion. To help, here’s a strategy you can use that I’ve used with some of the athletes I’ve worked with in mental performance coaching.

Identify Why You Truly Want to Quit Your Team

This first step of the strategy forces you to think through your reasoning for wanting to quit. Rather than being overly reactive, you must examine what is the true cause of the feeling you have to step away from the team.

This will help you make a decision with a clearer head, but it will also help you feel more confident about the decision you make.

Instead of saying something vague like, “It just wasn’t the right team for me,” you will be able to say something definite like, “The team did not offer me the opportunity I am looking for right now.”

It can help to write this out. Just do some free writing and list out all the reasons you want to quit. Or maybe it’s easier for you to do this in the form of a conversation. Talk with a parent or a friend about the reasons you want to quit.

As you think this through, you will gain valuable insight into what you want out of a team. And that will help you as you move on to the next step in the strategy.

Outline Your Options

Now that you’ve identified a strong reason for wanting to step away from your team, it’s time to come up with your options. Use the information you gained in the previous step to guide you with what to look for.

The reason you want to outline your options is that you don’t want to quit and then feel lost. You want to have good direction and know what your path will look like after you quit.

For example, if you’re in high school and you’ve decided to quit your travel team, your options may be to find another team right now, focus on training, or take a break from your sport.

If you are in college, your options may be to transfer at the end of the semester, drop out of your school right now, or remain on the team.

If you’re a professional athlete, your options may be to quit and wait until next season, join another team right now, or focus on training.

Getting clear on what your options are will help as you think about what the best possible choice is for you to make.

Create a Pros & Cons List for Each Option

Now that you have your options defined, you need to create a pros and cons list for each one. And yes, this includes the option of staying with the team you’re on.

One of the main reasons I like coming up with a list of options is because now you aren’t simply looking at two choices: staying on your team or quitting. Instead, you are deciding between two, three, four, or even more choices.

It’s not really about quitting anymore. Your focus is now on which of the options you’ve laid out is the best path for you moving forward.

So get yourself a piece of paper or use your phone or computer and make a list of pros and cons for each of the options you’ve outlined.

Give Yourself Time to Think

You want to allow yourself breathing room to think about your choices. However, giving yourself time to think also involves coming up with a definite date when your decision must be made.

Sometimes this will come from external factors, such as a transfer time or a point where you will lose eligibility if you quit after that.

But a lot of times this date will be defined by you. Giving yourself a set date when the decision will be made allows you time to think it over but also places a sense of urgency on making your decision.

Commit & Move Forward

Once the time arrives, you need to make your decision.

Now, the decision will likely be difficult and it’s natural to begin second guessing yourself. That’s where this last step in the strategy comes into play.

Once you make your decision, it’s time to commit to it and move forward with the path you’ve decided upon. Don’t allow yourself the pleasure of questioning your decision.

If you used this strategy, you should feel confident that you’ve put a great deal of thought into making the decision and so it truly is the best one for you at this moment.

And as you move forward, keep yourself focused on the path you’ve set. Don’t allow yourself to get upset or feel regret for the choice you made. That is why it’s important to think through your decision and be sure it is not made out of a quick emotional reaction.

A well thought through choice should not be met with regret. It should be met with confidence that you made the right choice for yourself given all the information you had at that time.

Final Thoughts

A question that often appears in an athlete’s life, but is never an easy one to face is, “Should I quit my team?”

There are many reasons why you may be feeling this way. Whether it’s due to a negative team environment or you feel like you just are being given the opportunity you want, it’s natural to question whether you should quit.

However, no athlete wants to be labeled a quitter. But sometimes stepping away from your team is the best option for you. Though, it is a decision that must be made after deliberate thought and consideration has been put forth.

To help you make your decision, there are four steps you can follow: identify why you want to quit, outline all of your options, create a pros and cons list for each option, and commit to the decision you make and move forward.

By following this strategy, you should feel confident about your choice as you decide whether it’s right for you to quit your team.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

Contact Success Starts Within Today

Please contact us to learn more about mental coaching and to see how it can improve your mental game and increase your performance. Complete the form below, call (252)-371-1602 or schedule an introductory coaching call here.

Eli Straw

Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.

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