I didn’t grow up playing sports and don’t consider myself to have much athletic ability at all, so I have very little experience with youth sports. When my oldest kids were young and their friends began playing sports I found it somewhat ridiculous. I mean there are plenty of years for sports. Why do our kids have to be on a team by the age of five to succeed in life?
We were slow to jump on the sports-crazed bandwagon with a rec class here or there. It wasn’t until our oldest fell in love with basketball that we began to explore the world of club and competitive sports. I remember a time when his friends were playing in a summer league and I balked at the idea of playing a sport beyond the traditional season. Wouldn’t you know – our boys have now been playing basketball in its intended season of winter AND summer for so many years that I don’t remember what it was like before this.
Still feeling unsure about the demands of youth sports on our kids, we signed our daughter up for a gymnastics class. This was primarily for therapeutic reasons after she graduated from occupational therapy. We were encouraged that gymnastics would teach her body control and be a good outlet for her. However, after one round of classes, she was invited to begin the competitive team track and it upped the ante more than we ever expected. Gymnastics is our most expensive monthly bill (after our mortgage) and our biggest time commitment. If I’m being honest, I teeter between being grateful she has the opportunity and wondering what in the world we are doing forking out all this money for a sport.
The whole family goes to games and competitions. I absolutely love watching my kids play and compete. Most of the time my big boys get particularly embarrassed by me cheering too loud. I’m competitive by nature, so it’s very easy for me to get drawn into the game and become THAT Sports Mom.
Many times it seems to me that youth sports are way out of control. Even with all our involvement in it, I question if it’s the right thing. It starts so early when kids should be able to just be kids. It costs so much for young families who are trying to make ends meet, and the demand of time is often extreme. My kids, although gifted and amazing, are not going to make it to the NBA or the Olympics, but they are still gaining a great deal from their athletic experience. My kids are gaining physical and inner strength. They are learning how to set and achieve goals, see the positive in loss and adversary, take direction, be committed, and they are learning how to work with others. These are all important life skills that they will continue to use beyond youth sports.
When I take all this into consideration I think the answer for my family is balance. My kids can and should be involved in youth sports as they are able. But should we come to a place where they can’t do anything else they want to be involved in because one sport takes all their time, then maybe we need to make some changes. Or if we find ourselves unable to pay our bills because we are spending too much on youth sports, then we would most certainly need to reevaluate. So while embracing all my potential concerns, I will also embrace the fun and the opportunity my kids have to learn and grow as they play youth sports.
Are your kids involved in sports? How have you found balance in their activities?