Hi, my name is Kristen, and I feel conflicted about youth sports.
Full disclosure . . . I didn’t grow up in a sports-playing household. My sisters and I were all very into the arts. We were choir and theater geeks. And my dad was more likely to watch ballroom dancing on a Saturday then he was to watch a football game. We were more familiar with chord charts than soccer cleats. We are an artsy farts he family through and through, so the kids sports landscape is new to me.
That being said: I’M OVER IT. I’m feeling that particularly today, after a Father’s Day completely hijacked by two basketball games.
We have been fairly casual when it comes to sports and our kids, doing classes or camps here and there and letting them play on occasional teams that didn’t require a lot of commitment. However, they have been putting the pressure on us to play in a more serious basketball league. A couple of their friends are doing it, and I figured, at 9 and 11, this is not a whim, and actually something they want us to take seriously. I appreciate that I have two kids who wants to be active and athletic. I appreciate that they would prefer to spend their weekends playing a sport over playing a video game. And I appreciate that they see the value in pushing themselves forward in something they like doing. I wanted to reword all of that. So we signed up for the basketball league, not really realizing what it entailed.
What it entails, basically, is robbing us of a family dinner twice a week, and our ability to attend a church as a family on Sundays. They have practices twice a week at dinnertime and they have not one but TWO games every weekend. Which, in my book, feels like a pretty big sacrifice. And this is with both of the boys being on the same team! I forced poor Kembe to “play up” the league, so he is a 3rd grader playing on a 5th and 6th grade team. Now, he is athletic enough that he can keep up, and tall enough that no one is the wiser at his age difference. In fact, even at 2 -3 years younger, he is still one of the taller kids on the team. But had I not done this, I can’t even imagine the chaos it would wreak on our family. Having them onto separate teams would mean they could be out for practice collectively four different nights a week, and then we would have four games on a Sunday instead of two.
I was expressing my concerns to a more seasoned mom, who told me that I should count my blessings, because “this is nothing” and “club basketball is even worse.” Apparently, in that case, they would be playing even more games that weekend, sometimes traveling to do so, and have practice nearly every day. What in the world? I do not remember sports being this intense when I was a kid. Especially for kids of this age.
And this is where I feel so conflict. A part of me wants to pull them out and reclaim our family time. They are still young, and it is still a huge value for me to attend church together, and eat dinner as a family when we can. I feel like we will have plenty of years down the road when our evenings are hijacked by school sports. Do I really need to engage them at this level so early?
But then, there is the fact that there are so many parents who ARE engaging their kids at this level. And I can already see the difference. We have been really casual with sports, and the skill level is noticeable. My boys have some natural ability but it doesn’t bridge the gap with these kids who’ve been playing at this intense of a pace for the last three or four years. And that skill disparity is only going to widen if I don’t keep them in sports.
Now, I’ve also always been the mom who just doesn’t really care that her kids are sports stars. I’m quite fine being a B+ family when it comes to extracurricular activities. When parents talk about their 2nd graders’ “future in sports” or private coaching or what they need to do to get a scholarship my eyes are rolling back into my head, because LET THEM BE KIDS and also, there are other things I want to emphasize for their futures. But the thing is . . . my kids care. I haven’t wanted to push them into needing to be an all-star at something, but they very much have set these goals for themselves. They feel good about sports. It promotes their self-esteem. It feels like something they can master. And THEY want to be the best.
So, I am left with these conflicting values, between our family life and wanting to encourage my kids in following their passions. And I’m not sure how to have both.
I am curious to hear from other parents. How do you handle this tension? Have you been able to find sports opportunities that are less intense? Do you worry about your kids falling behind if you don’t keep them involved?