Soccer, baseball, dance, karate, acting lessons, piano lessons, hockey, guitar lessons, gymnastics……and on and on and on. Sound familiar? How about the seasons of going the opposite direction of our spouses every weekend making sure each kiddo is at their respective tournaments. Of course there is the scrambling to get everyone where they need to be on a school night while still trying to fit in homework, dinner, and hopefully a shower.
We have been there. It’s what we all thought we wanted. I never kept an opportunity from our kids…okay except wrestling….but that’s my OCD, germaphobic, personality coming out. Anything our boys wanted to try we said “sure”. I even searched for things for them to try. All the things I wished I would have done but didn’t have the confidence too I encouraged them to give it a shot. They were playing soccer in pre-school. T-ball in kindergarten. Flag-football and basketball started by first grade. We also tried piano, guitar, acting, and so on. All in an effort to give them “opportunity”.
It was fun with one. Then there were two. Then the recreational fun turned into travel. Again times two. Soon the seasons started overlapping. Suddenly all these sports lost their luster. When we had our “bonus” baby our perspective changed. It was soon clear that our days with our little family were flying by before our eyes and the last thing I wanted to do was be this crazy mom not knowing if I was coming or going and stressing out our family trying to do it ALL.
So we tried this crazy concept. We started asking out kids….”Do you like X activity?” “I mean do you really love it?” We made it clear that if they did we were in 100%. We would be at all the games and facilitate everything they needed to be the best they could be. But if they didn’t really love it that was cool too. No big deal, no disappointed parents. We just wanted them to find something they were passionate about and be committed.
They had both become consumed with our insane schedule thinking they “HAD” to do all these things because that’s what “EVERYONE” does that they hadn’t take time to really explore how they felt about what they were doing. One by one they CHOSE to give up activities until they each found their passion. To be totally honest we just needed a break. We needed to reconnect over family dinners, we needed some downtime and perspective. I figured once they gave it up for a season they would miss it and so would we and they could pick it back up. But fast forward a couple years and they don’t miss it and neither do we. They now have more time to practice what they truly love. It gave them time to….get this….BE KIDS.
They don’t have to miss out on sleep-overs because of early morning tournaments all the time. They have the energy to go out and shoot hoops…FOR FUN. They have the motivation to round up neighborhood kids for backyard soccer or baseball games…FOR FUN. They have the time to try different hobbies… FOR FUN. The best part? They have time to be with us. We always have dinner as a family. We have free time to hit the movies or take a day trip. We have time to make memories that don’t always have to involve a field or court.
Youth sports can be incredible. We are so fortunate to live in an area where there are so many opportunities available to our children. But when we start our kiddos at five, and the pressure is building by eight, and teams are cutting kids by ten (or before!), sometimes we lose sight of the WHY. Reasons like the chance to build their skills. A time to learn sportsmanship, leadership, integrity, self-discipline, and teamwork. Or maybe the reason our kids wanted to start in the first place, to hang with their friends and have FUN.
In the scheme of things the time they have to be children is fleeting. If they love a sport that’s awesome, but there is something to be said for a pick-up game of basketball or a gaggle of boys throwing a football around in the back yard…for FUN.