Many people assume that when someone is good at something, they also love doing it.

Many people assume that when someone is good at something, they also love doing it. For example, when we see a talented athlete compete, we generally assume he or she loves playing sports. While this is sometimes true, there are many instances where an athlete has natural talent playing a sport, yet does not truly enjoy it. When this scenario occurs and the athlete eventually quits playing, people are often left wondering why the athlete quit - especially because of how talented the individual was when he or she competed.

Examining talent & interest

It is important to note that talent and interest, while sometimes overlapping, are two independent variables that should not be assumed to be the same. Some talented athletes love to play, while others are naturally good at sports yet would rather spend their time doing something else.

I have counseled athletes who are good but don't love playing, and witnessed firsthand the stress they feel competing for reasons beyond their own. Often the athlete continues playing the sport because the team needs him, others expect him to continue to play, or a potential future college athletic scholarship may be in the balance. Unfortunately, none of these reasons are intrinsically motivating, leaving the athlete distressed over being "stuck" conundrum: Quit and let people down, or continue to unhappily play?

Tips to help

Talk. If your child struggles being good at sports but not terribly interested in playing, be sure to talk openly and often. Explain that people sometimes have natural abilities and talents doing things they don't always enjoy - even when it comes to sports. Consider help. Consider professional sport psychology services to help determine if your child's disinterest is temporary, or more a product of long-term thinking. If it appears to be a temporary issue, try and help your child resolve the problem(s) and stay with the sport. Problem solve. If you discover that your child really does not enjoy playing the sport, and has thought this way for a long time, work together to develop an safe and healthy exit strategy and support your child through the process. Develop a healthy identity. Make sure that your child fully understands that his or her self-worth is not 100% tied to athletics. Too often kids feel like their only importance is on the playing field, and it takes adults (parents & coaches) help them see their value beyond sports. Skills for life. If your child does decide to quit sports, help him or her identify and use all the Athletic Transferable Skills learned through sports and apply them to school, future career, and life experiences.


Dr. Chris Stankovich is a graduate of The Ohio State University and the founder of Advanced Human Performance Systems, an athletic counseling and human performance enhancement center.

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