Why children stop playing soccer

I stopped going to soccer because after a while it became like work, no fun…I used to like it…”

Eleven year-old, San Fernando Valley, California, USA

Why is it that some children keep coming to our practices, week in week out, in hot sunshine and in freezing blizzards while up to 25% of children (and they’re often the most talented ones) pack it in after a few weeks or months?A recent study asked almost 700 children who stopped playing organised sport (including football or soccer) what it is was that made them give up. The main reasons the kids gave for quitting were:

  • I lost interest,
  • The coach treated some children more favourably than others,
  • I was not having any fun or
  • I developed other non-sport interests.

Of these, only the development of non-sport interests was related to the age of the child. This means that as children get older they are more likely to drop out because they become interested in activities outside of sport.

No surprise there!

Because children rarely drop out for just one specific reason, the study also analysed the ‘reasons behind the reasons’ for dropping out. It found that the primary combination of factors contributing to dropping out was related to the team environment. Specifically, the children felt that:

  • Their coaches were not doing a good job,
  • There was too much pressure to win and
  • The members of the team did not get along well with each other.

The most encouraging finding of all, however, is that in the early age groups the principal reasons for stopping playing soccer are reasons that you can do something about!By understanding how your children think, not putting too much emphasis on competition, giving quality feedback and focusing on FUN your children won’t drop out and may well develop a life long interest in sport – thanks to you!

Now you know why children want to play soccer it might be useful to gain an understanding of how children develop both physically and mentally. That way you’ll be able to plan sessions that are pitched at the right level for your players.

It would also be a good idea to read how to be an effective soccer coach.


Of course, the reasons why children stop playing football vary according to their age when they stop. The most common in my experience are:

  • Parental disinterest (or active discouragement) that results in difficulty getting to practice, matches etc. (affects younger children most).
  • Not fitting in – this is more common in girls football where the importance of being in the the ‘gang’ becomes important as children get to about ten years old;
  • New interests that replace football (other sports usually – golf, tennis etc )
  • Joining a peer group that do not play football