We noticed that our 12-year-old's participation in Little League hasn't been that competitive this year. The competition has gotten stiffer and it's painful to watch the lack of effort. However, she still says she wants to play.
We've discussed exploring other extracurricular activities (e.g., music, tennis, or golf), but, so far, she's managed to avoid getting involved in anything that she doesn't succeed at immediately. Without any PE at school, we believe it's important to encourage participation in physical activity. What should we do?
The key phrase in your letter is "she still says she wants to play." As long as your daughter wants to play Little League baseball, encourage her to do so. At age 12, the difference in sports skill levels of kids can be dramatic. Because you find it "painful" to watch what you perceive as a conspicuous lack of effort, you have probably directly communicated your disappointment to her. Is it possible that she is giving more effort than you give her credit for? She might have stopped trying to improve her performance because she is discouraged about her skills not matching up favorably with others her age. Given her present need to succeed immediately at anything that she initiates, she'd learn an important life lesson by continuing to do something even though she is not highly successful at it.
As for wanting her to have more physical activity because of a lack of PE in school, consider doing more pleasant physical activities as a family -- bike riding, hiking, power walking, swimming, etc. Little League, or any other athletic activity, should be pursued first because your daughter shows an interest in it rather than because of the fitness benefits. We tend to stick to activities that give us pleasure. I am sure that she will find such activities if she is allowed to sample what's available.