How much is too much? I have been having this discussion at my house quite a bit recently. I have three kids, ages 12, 10, and 6. During the spring sports season we have five sports/activities going on between the three of them. My oldest daughter is playing AAU basketball. My son, age 10, is playing AAU basketball plus his first season of lacrosse. My youngest daughter is playing soccer and taking a dance class one night a week. All of this adds up to 8 practices per week, potentially three tournaments each weekend plus a soccer game. We are stretched thin trying to get everyone where they need to go. Since I am coaching my son’s basketball team, my wife is often forced be responsible for the two girls, especially on the weekend. How do we handle it? Is it the right choice?
My son wanted to try lacrosse this spring for the first time. His friends are playing, their dads are coaching and we had heard great things about it. There is really no alternative time to get involved in lacrosse. At the same time, he also wanted to play AAU basketball, and truth be told, I wanted him to play basketball. As I wrote last week, we agreed that basketball games would come first so if there was a conflict between two games, he would play in the basketball game and miss lacrosse. Is this fair to his lacrosse coaches and teammates? I’m not sure that it is. We let them know up front what the situation was and they were fine with it but… I know it can be frustrating as a coach when players miss practices or games. The teamwork and camaraderie that coaches work so hard to achieve can be difficult to build without regular attendance. Am I teaching my son properly about the commitment it takes to be on a school team later in life? Or am I sending mixed messages? It’s a difficult dilemma. In the end, we made the decision to have him play lacrosse because he wanted to try it and the more sports he has exposure to at a young age the better.
Is the emphasis on sports too heavy at the expense of the kids’ other interests? My kids love art, horseback riding, animals, and many other things. What about those? We try to fit them in when we can. So why sports? To me, it comes down to the fact that you are only young once. If you don’t play sports as a kid, you won’t as an adult. You only get one chance at competitive sports. With many other things in life, you can pick them up as an adult and still derive a lot of enjoyment. It’s hard to play in an adult basketball league if you never played as a kid. Plus, I truly believe in the power of sports to help build better people. Nothing challenges you more than sports to push yourself and handle adversity. You learn to win and lose with class. In the end, I know what sports did for me and I want my kids to have a similar experience.
That put our family in position to split up many weeknights and weekends to get everybody where they need to be. How do we handle that? We try to make sure we eat dinner together whenever possible. It doesn’t always happen, but we try. We try to know the schedule as far in advance as possible (usually only a week ahead, but still!). I am constantly asking them if they are having fun and want to be playing. That keeps the lines of communication open. Even with that, it can be stressful and challenging.
The youth sports landscape today is much different than when I was a kid in the 70’s and 80’s. Drive by a playground basketball court or a local baseball field. I would bet you that it is probably empty. Kids don’t play pick-up sports that much anymore. It is all parent directed. I miss the old system, but the cat is out of the bag. That time is not coming back. We’ve decided to have a crazy spring season this year. I hope it all works out.
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