Dear Athletic Support: We recently quit our travel volleyball team. We won a lot, but the other girls had terrible attitudes. It was really starting to show in my 12-year-old daughter, so we tried out for a different team with better sportsmanship. My daughter is still friends with many of the girls from the other team, but I worry they won’t be nice to her in the future. Is there a way to quit and stay on good terms with your former teammates and coaches? We live in a small town. She will cross paths with these girls many times again. — Momma Bear
Dear Momma Bear: Quitting a team is never easy, especially at the ripe age of 12. I don’t have to tell you how close kids can become to their teammates. All the long practices, the late nights spent in hotel rooms at tournaments, the great memories after winning big games — those are memories your daughter can cherish forever.
At the same time, she’s also learning lessons from her teammates and coaches that will stick with her: Hard work. How to persevere. How to win, and more importantly, how to lose gracefully.
What so many kids don’t understand is that there are some battles in life you simply cannot win. People tend to learn this painful lesson as they age and come face to face with their own mortality.
Lucky for your daughter, she’s still 12, and this is volleyball we’re talking about, not life or death. Your decision to remove her from a potentially toxic yet winning team was the right one. I commend your bravery, but that’s not going to make this next part any easier.
Undoubtedly, your daughter will have to endure many snarky comments and ice-cold stares. She’ll have to stand tall in the face of adversity and follow the excellent example you’ve provided. She’ll have to be brave.
There is no easy answer. No quick fix. This is another powerful lesson for your daughter to learn: life can be tough. Lucky for her, she’s got a brand new volleyball team she can turn to when things get tricky.
The most important thing, though, is that you removed your daughter from a bad situation. You taught her that there are more important things in life than winning. Whatever comes next will take care of itself. As the old saying has it, “Time heals all wounds.” The same is true when it comes to quitting a travel-league volleyball team.
Dear Athletic Support: I took issue with one of your previous columns, “Locker room talk.” The way you shrugged off the potential threat of bullying and other uncomfortable situations young athletes could very easily encounter was downright asinine. Do you really think there are no inherent dangers involved in the locker room in 2019? — Calling You Out
Dear Calling Me Out: I can only speak from my experiences in locker rooms over my coaching career. The kids I coached were aged 12 to 18, mostly football players, and they were great.
I cannot speak for all locker rooms. I’m sure some of the same old problems still exist. I was just lucky enough not to encounter them.
If your child isn’t so fortunate, he should notify his coach of any issues immediately. All school employees are Mandated Reporters. They’re legally obligated to ensure a report is made when abuse is observed or suspected.
Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Send questions for “Athletic Support” to firstname.lastname@example.org.