Holding Your Child Back for Sports

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coach and players meeting at the mound

Recently, I saw a discussion about holding your child back in school for sports, so I decided to write about it and put my two cents in. I know this is a very controversial topic and there are many differing opinions, and mine is just one of them.

Having held my son back, I have some insight on this decision. My younger son who is now 14-years old, has always been a very good athlete. He stands out no matter what sport he plays because of his pure athleticism, quick twitch abilities, and fearsome competitiveness. He hates to lose and just has that will to win and competitive spirit that you can’t teach. My older son loves to play sports, but doesn’t really have that same competitive nature. They are very different people.

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In preschool, my younger son was just an average kid as far as his intelligence and academic prowess. He made friends easily and was a very happy child. When the time came to put him in Kindergarten, we debated over whether to keep him in preschool for an extra year. He has a July birthday, which is a little late, but still before the deadline and his preschool teachers said he was ready, so we enrolled him.

Looking back on this now, I can see why there were reasons we should have kept him back. First off, he was smaller than most of the other kids. Also, although he was very intelligent, his verbal skills were a little behind the other students.

And then there was baseball. Being smaller than the other kids at 5-years old seems like not that big of a deal to most people, right? But in today’s competitive world of sports, the biggest kids seem to get more opportunities. I’m not saying all of the opportunities…just more. We all know it. The bigger kids can hit the ball farther, throw farther and harder, and just seem older. All these years of extra opportunities add up, and if your kid can be just a little bigger, he or she may get them and it could make a world of difference.

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My son, being the competitor that he is, has been able to keep up with the bigger kids for the most part. He’s a great hitter and his defense is really good. But when he hit 8th grade, the size difference became noticeable. Now that decision to put him in Kindergarten had caught up with us. I realize that sports isn’t everything, but if you have a really good athlete, don’t you want to give him or her every opportunity to thrive and have the best options for their high school and college careers that they can get?

Well we did, and the decision was made for him to repeat 8th grade. In addition to being smaller, his grades started slipping a little in 8th grade and it was getting a little harder for him to keep up with his grades and sports. He just didn’t have the maturity to go to high school this year and there’s no way I could imagine him there with those older students.

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In making this decision, there were some things to think about. First off, it was going to cost money because he went from public school to private school in order to repeat. Secondly, was there any down side? We couldn’t find any and that was the biggest factor in our decision. If he would have been completely opposed to it out of embarrassment or shame, or was upset about leaving his friends we would have had to take that into consideration, but none of that was true for him. He understood the benefit of having that extra year to grow, mature, and thrive, and we haven’t looked back.

Honestly, I haven’t second guessed this decision even once. My son is doing very well in his second year of 8th grade, his grades are good, he’s maturing, growing bigger, and learning more life skills to take into high school. I would recommend to anyone thinking about this that if you can afford the cost (if there is one) that it’s a great thing to be able to do for your child. My only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner.

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  1. Rhonda

    Thank You. This was very timely for me as I am think about this for my own son.

    • You’re welcome. I considered all of the pro’s and con’s and I couldn’t come up with a downside. Good luck with your journey. 🙂

  2. Frank

    Sounds like your kid was a late bloomer. Athletically it may have been a struggle but I’m sure he caught up in High School. If a kid is small in stature when full grown keeping him back to be bigger then five year olds is setting him up for disappointment when the others catch and pass him.

    • Hi Frank…so true. Our kid was behind in maturity as well as size so holding him back was a great decision. He is doing well and gets a whole extra year of his childhood. 🙂

  3. TLC

    How is your son doing now, do you have any regrets? I ask only because I contemplating the samething for my son entering 8th grade.

    • Hi there. My son is doing great and we are SO, SO happy that we held him back. He was a bit immature and absolutely not ready for high school, and there is no down side to holding a child back unless they are dead set against it. My son had a lot of friends in the grade behind him so it was no big deal. What’s the negative to giving your kid another year of childhood? 🙂

  4. Amanda Landry

    Love and needed this! My husband has been pushing this but my son and I weren’t on board. Now my son is getting serious about wanting to do it too and I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it. I do see some benefit but he’s only in 7th grade, what if he decides he’d rather play golf because he loves that too. But another year of childhood and keeping him home with me is rewarding as well and gives him more time to decide what he wants to do with his life! Gosh I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do with mine half the time!

    • Believe me, we struggled with it but we couldn’t find any downside. Another year of childhood! <3

  5. Michelle

    I think your situation and reason is an acceptable one however that is not the norm. We just played a basketball team with a “freshman” who was 6’4 and 290lbs. He will turn 16 in April and was held back in 8th grade for sports reasons only. It’s not fair to the average child (Size wise) who isn’t being held back, to be expected to compete with someone who would have already been bigger and stronger than his teammates and competition had he not been held back. This is just one example. There is also a travel baseball team in our are that had 8 of its players repeat 8th grade. Like most things in this world what ends up happening is more and more people do it just because they now feel they have to in order to compete with the other kids who are doing it. Again in your situation it is completely understandable My youngest is a July birthday and we debated the same thing.

    • Yes, I agree. My son was smaller than most of the other kids, but also very immature so it made total sense for us. He has since caught up and is now average size and his maturity has caught up as well. I think it’s insane for people who already have giant kids to hold them back unless it is solely for maturity reasons. But it’s a free country. 🙂

  6. Adrian

    These comments are great. My situation is as follows. My son’s Birthday is August 11th and he is one of the youngest in his 6th grade class. However, he is big in size and is one of the bigger kids. His grades are good also and does not struggle academically. However, we are very serious about sports and I’m thinking of repeating 8th grade when we get there just to get one full year of size and training. This means he would enter into High School that much bigger. I’m only considering this for sports purposes. He would be in-line with the age of everyone else. The idea also would be to repeat 8th grade as a home school so he could train even more. I know I sound like a crazy parent but he is on board with this and is actually pushing it. What’s your thoughts?

      • Eric

        Probably no downside for the kid that is holding back. The downside is for the kid(s) in the grade below you. Especially when a whole group decides to hold back. These kids have worked to earn their spot within their group and suddenly a group of kids that are bigger, stronger, faster and a year more put together essentially transfer into their class. Now, getting those reps in front of coach or in a game is suddenly more difficult. The snowball effect takes place. The older kids have the initial advantage so they get the initial reps, the youngers sit on the bench and get fewer reps. The gap grows between their ability levels. Suddenly the next four years of your athletics are swiped. Thanks a lot!

        • admin

          I never even thought of that. Good insight.

        • admin

          I ordered it from Amazon and it didn’t have different sizes. There was only one and it’s about a foot tall.

  7. Tyler Vole

    Just a quick reality check… if your son is on the smaller side in 7th/8th grade and you and your husband are under 5’8-5’10 – holding your son back is not going to change genetics – nothing is going to change that – there is no magic pixy dust to sprinkle on him at night to play competitively in HS or make a college team.

    Look at a competitive HS or College roster average sized kid – you really need to be 6ft plus. Everyone used to say but look at Altuve – they are not saying that anymore- LOL!

    • Austin Ford

      Tyler I think you’re missing the picture. She never said that she’s trying to defy genetics. She just gave her kid a value added benefit of maturing physically and socially. For late bloomers, this is the way to go. I didn’t hit 5’11 until 15, I was 5’6 at 14 and 5’4 at 13. Just an FYI, my dad is 6’2 and my mom is 5’6. If holding your kid back so that they can mature more physically like from my experience at 5’11 as a freshman versus 5’6 as a freshman is a no brainer. At 15 I could have started hitting the weight room before high school and been that guy coming in as a freshman. My nephew did it at 8th grade and now plays for a D1 well known school and he’s 5’10. Like Shannon said, what’s wrong with have your kid home one more year.

      • Hi Austin. If you are able to switch to public school, that’s the route I would go. My son was in public school and we switched him to private to repeat the grade. I guess it depends on whether your school district will do it or not. To me, there is absolutely no down side unless your son is dead set against it because he doesn’t want to lose his friends. Mine didn’t care and it was the best decision we ever made for him.

  8. Joe

    Shannon, did you have your son go to a different school for just 8th grade and then go back to your community high school or did he go to a private high school? How was the adjustment. Did his grades greatly improve?

    • Hi Joe. Yes, we originally had our son in public school but when we wanted him to repeat we sent him to a private school to repeat 8th grade. He really liked the school so we sent him there for high school as well. I think it’s the best decision we ever made for him. His maturity level was not there and it was definitely good for his grades. He did not mind repeating at all, and in fact he wanted to do it. He made great new friends and all around, it was a great decision.

  9. Lisa M

    I’m so torn with this. My son is currently in 7th grade, has a June birthday, and currently plays 12u baseball. Just about all the kids on the team are in 6th grade. He is average height with the other kids in his grade, but on the taller side for his 12u baseball team. He’s about 5’5, maybe slightly taller now. He does ok in school, besides all the missing assignments. He is also a bit socially awkward.

    My husband is really contemplating holding him back in 7th grade, mostly for baseball, but also to help him socially develop, and mature more. My husband just thought of holding him back after watching a middle school matchup game that he was not on, but saw how developed those kids in his grade already are. We haven’t brought it up to my son yet, but I just don’t feel right about this. My son does have quite a few friends in grade below him due to baseball, but also has friends in current grade. Is this really a common thing? What downsides could there be to holding him back?

    • Hi Lisa. There is absolutely no down side to this that I can think of and we are SO, SO happy that we held our son back. His maturity level was not where it needed to be and he’s doing great.

  10. Austin Ford

    Hi Shannon. My son is enrolling in private school this fall (6th grade) and like your son he’s really good at baseball. Currently he’s 11 years old and is on the smaller side. Which do you think is the best route: Elect to home school before high school and train or switch back to public school to reclass. FYI. The new school is fighting me on it now.

  11. Adriana Ramirez

    I really needed to read this. My husband have been considering this for some time and have brought this up to our son who is in the 5th grade. He wants to graduate with his class (8th grade) and then transfer to another private school to repeat 8th grade. It was his idea to wait until the 8th grade but his request was to move to another school which wouldn’t be an issue. I still struggle with it and am so mad at myself for not holding him back in Kindergarten. He was born in late August because he was 6 weeks early or else wouldn’t be faced with this issue. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • admin

      Glad I could be of help. 🙂

  12. Hello! Thank you for sharing your experience! Just curious, did you keep your son at the same school or switch him to a different school?

    • Hi Veronica,

      No, our public school system wouldn’t let him repeat so we sent him to a private school for 8th grade again and he really liked it there so he finished out through 12 grade there.

  13. M. Morales

    Hi Shannon I’m really happy to have found your article. My family and I have been contemplating this for some time now. I’m all about research and weighing the pros vs. cons. My oldest is 13 his bday is early October when he first started school for Kindergarten I pushed for them to accept him although he was a 2 days passed the cut off. Although he is bigger than most kids and pretty smart I know his maturity level is behind. He graduated 8th grade in May which I have no idea how if his grades where horrible. This is what worries me about having him repeat 8th grade, I don’t want him to think it’s a year to chill. Although we are most doing it for baseball I also want to make sure academically he improves. Can you give more in sight on what ur sons days looked like during the 2nd year?

    • Hi there,

      It was really a great decision that we made and I do think my son thought he was going to skate right through it. Going to a different school which is private, he had to get used to a different cirriculum and also had to take a religion class. He definitely didn’t get straight A’s but it was fairly easy for him. Luckily for him, he’s very good at making friends so he felt really comfortable right away. Once the second year of 8th grade was finished he wanted to continue on to the private high school so we made it work.

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