In our world of being sometimes overwhelmed in youth sports, many have asked me when is the best time to stop playing a sport? That is a very difficult question to answer, as it really depends on the individual. Recently, Kansas City Royals pitcher, Gil Meche, announced he was retiring from baseball. What made this decision, newsworthy, was that Meche was walking away from the last year of his contract, which would have paid him over $12 million. He has had shoulder problems and injuries the past couple of seasons that have affected his performance and have put him on the disabled list. Faced with the decision of possible surgery, which would have resulted in a year of rehabilitation, Meche decided to retire. However, he told the Royals to keep the money, because he did not feel right taking it. He was signed five years ago to a five year, $55 million contract to be a starting pitcher. Because of his shoulder injuries, he would not be able to start anymore without having surgery, and there was no guarantee that even with surgery, he would be able to pitch again to the level he had been performing at. Consequently, he decided to retire and not take the money. All he had to do, was show up later this month at spring training and tell the Royals that he could not pitch, and…….. they would have had to have paid him in full for the season. However, his value system and his conscience told did not make him feel right about taking the money. As you know, this is unique, because today, more often than not, we hear about many athletes who threaten to not play if their team doesn’t renegotiate their contract for more money. So when should you quit? I think a big part of that decision is based on when you start playing. Last week, a caller on my radio show said his son started playing organized baseball at age four. FOUR years of age! At age eight, he was starting to lose interest. No wonder. There is pressure today, to start kids earlier and earlier in sports. Typically, most people seem to get involved for fear of having their kids fall behind others. I think the best time to get kids involved is between six and eight years of age on a team. But, initially the emphasis should be on having fun and learning skills. Winning should not even be in the equation until they have played for a couple of years. Most kids seem to choose a specific sport around age 12 or 13 and start to specialize then, and by high school, most kids are either playing one team sport, or not at all, because of burnout and other interests. I think the best way to keep kids in a sport is to make sure they are involved in other activities, as well as sports. Don’t get too overinvolved in one sport at too early of an age or they will lose interest within three to four years of playing. Also, former NBA and college coach, Larry Brown once told me he thought kids should play both an individual sport and a team sport before high school, because they will learn about confidence in the individual sport and about teamwork and roles on a team. Great advice from a great coach.