By Margie Sugarman
Margie Sugarman is a leading board-certified psychotherapist and sports consultant based in New York. Margie’s desire is to enhance performance through the connection between the mind and body, and her current client list includes Olympic, professional and amateur athletes across the country. Her experience employing various therapeutic modalities has helped equestrians win classics, junior medals and grand prix. Do you have a question you want Margie to answer? Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My son is suddenly more interested in video games than taking care of his horse. In the past, he would groom his horse for hours, get excited about horse shows and hang out with peers who had the same riding interest. I’m worried that he’s no longer interested in riding, or that something happened to make him think that riding isn’t for boys. How do I find out why his interest seems to have waned? His horse misses him.
If a child is not enjoying a sport, why would a parent want them to be in it? There are a variety of issues that should be addressed when trying to figure out why a child suddenly loses interest in a sport they were previously intensely involved with. Perhaps focusing on intensity is the best place to begin. When things become too intense, the fun, for many if not most children, is lost. If it’s not fun, kids lose interest, drive and the desire to participate.
Another area that might be impacting your son’s loss of interest in riding could be his lack of improvement. Imagine being at a job where you never seem to grow or where there’s not much acknowledgement for any of your improvements. How long would you continue to try? Here you have to assess if the goals that have been set for your son are realistic. Did you, the trainer or your son set the goals? Does everyone agree with the goals?
That leads you to some follow-up questions. Is the present trainer the right match for your son? Does your son have respect for the trainer? Does the trainer have others they’ve coached and ultimately attained the child’s goal(s)? Lack of enthusiasm and motivation are frequently caused by staleness and pressure. The brain just ultimately says “enough.” Goals should be openly spoken about and decided upon by all members of the team: student, coach and parents.
Trying to figure it out without the direct input of your child is really a lose/lose situation. The best place to begin is with your son. Sit down and speak with him. Let him know that it’s all right if he’s decided riding isn’t his thing. Try and get him to share his feelings about where the interest went and why. Sometimes your child will be able to give specific reasons and share his feelings openly and honestly. Be aware that your son might not be as open and honest as you’d like if he thinks he could be disappointing you with his answers. You should allow your son to be who he is and not feel he has to ride to make you happy. Should he mention particular issues at the barn or with the person he’s working with, maybe you could help by approaching the coach. Be proactive and positive. Don’t place any blame, just explain your concerns and how your son seems to be reacting to his experience.
However, should your son honestly just feel his interest isn’t there anymore for riding and he’d rather play video games, spend time on the computer and do things with his friends, he certainly wouldn’t be the only boy feeling these feelings. The culture has changed and we now have to learn to work with these distractions and use them as a tool to encourage our children to do other things, as well as to get outside.
Look at your son’s involvement in riding, no matter how long it might have been. Hopefully it was an experience that taught him things about himself. The life format of activities, aspirations and achievement is an important thing to remember. The more we experience in life, the fuller our lives will be. Our culture presents young people with so many options and opportunities. The role of a parent is to help their child maintain a forward momentum.