Basketball on the Edge – The Dilemma of Overscheduling

As youth basketball parents we have all been faced with the dilemma of overscheduling. Maybe our child is trying to balance two sports during the same season. Maybe we are trying to schedule a family vacation. Maybe our child simply has other interests or obligations outside of their sport.

Finding the right balance between commitment to an athletic team and what’s right for your family is no simple job. That being said here are some tips to help reduce your family’s stress level and limit your young player’s potential for injury and anxiety due to overscheduling.

• Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in!

Don’t let some crazy coach or organization decide what you can and can’t do as a family. We, as parents can decide what’s right for our kids. Too often, parents let coaches and especially other parents force them into situations they don’t want to be in. Your 8 year old doesn’t have to play 40 games of travel basketball just because “everyone” is doing it. There are many paths to success in basketball. Playing 150 games a year in 4th grade isn’t the only way! Remember that athletics are just one tool that can be used to teach values like work ethic, commitment, sportsmanship, and teamwork to our kids. Family events, school activities, vacations, music lessons and many others can serve the same purpose.

That being said, don’t confuse your family’s values with excuses. “Johnny’s sleeping over a friend’s house so he won’t be at the game.” isn’t really a reflection of your values, it’s just an excuse. “Mary’s brother is graduating from college and we’re attending the ceremony so she won’t be at practice.” is a true reflection of the values you are trying to teach your kids. Try to look at the reason why you might miss an athletic commitment through this lens and you’ll feel better about whatever decision you make.

• Only play one sport per season.

This is harder than ever in today’s youth sports world. When I was a kid there were clear seasons. Baseball in the summer, football in the fall, basketball in the winter. Now you can easily find ways to play any sport year-round. Look at your calendar! Are you juggling two or more teams’ practices, and games? That puts way too much pressure on you and your young player. Which practices do you skip? Will the coach be mad? Will it affect your child’s playing time? Which game in which league is being held where at what time? Play one sport per season and everyone will feel a sense of relief.

Pick one sport, hopefully a different one, each season. This will also help reduce the chances that your child falls victim to the high rate of overuse injuries that is prevalent in young players today. It will also help to avoid the burnout effect that happens so often when kids specialize in one sport way too early. If they love their sport there will be plenty of time to specialize once they reach high school.

• Make family time and downtime a priority.

My kids love to stay home when they have a chance. Why? Because often we spend our days and nights running to practices and games. With three kids in sports it is almost impossible to have a practice/game free day. However, that downtime and family time is critically important for lowering everyone’s stress level and letting our kids be kids. What you do during this time is up to you, but spend some quality time with your kids outside of sports so they know they are loved and valued beyond just what they can produce out on the court or field. We all need time to unwind and recuperate both mentally and physically. Make sure your kids are getting that time.

We all have different values and priorities when it comes to sports. Remember to be consistent in both words and actions when it comes to sharing those values with your children. Kids not only hear what we say, they see what we do. Make sure your message to coaches and other parents also reflect your values. Share how you really feel and you’ll find a supportive community of parents and coaches out there that want a positive youth sports experience for all our kids.

Talk to your young player and explain the choices and sacrifices that have to be made. When parents or coaches explain a situation where negative consequences may result from a missed practice or game, most kids will say, “Now I understand why I won’t start our next game because I missed practice for my brother’s graduation.” Consequences like these are life lessons that will serve your young player well throughout their entire life.

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