Youth Sports: Team Commitment or The Weekend Sampler?
By Meg Handy on April 09, 2011
As a hockey mom I am accustomed to my kids being totally commited to a team, a sport, a lifestyle. We plan our vacations around hockey...well most of our vacations are to hockey tournaments, but we plan our other social engagements around hockey anyway. We really don't consider other winter activities. We dream about ski trips but rarely pull them off, and we are too tired and broke to go even if we had a free weekend. This is what youth sports are to me from September thru March.
Then along comes April, and spring sports, and the hockey people are thrown into the mix of normal parents. Sometimes they freak us out. I know we always freak them out. These days, a lot of hockey players are playing lacrosse instead of the traditional Little League. I made my older son and daughter choose one, and as they discovered lacrosse, they both gave up baseball and softball. Our whole family has since become deeply involved in our lacrosse league and my husband I both coach. we're into it. It's our spring hockey (well besides the actual spring hockey, naturally).
Today I was talking to a girlfriend of mine who's daughter is participating in softball, lacrosse and competitive gymnastics this spring. The kid is busy. My friend was a little put off by the travel lacrosse schedule, saying she didn't realize it was "so much". She said she and her husband don't believe in sports being too organized too young, and wanted her daughter to try everything. She considers all sports cross training to make her a better athlete. I agree, in theory.
I think a lot of people must have the multi-sport mentality, because I get several emails a day from parents of my lacrosse players, telling me of one soccer or dance conflict or another. I don't mind them not showing up, its just a recreational league (ironic word; recreational- obviously it's recreational, it's a sport and the kids aren't pros- but you know what I mean). But I wonder what actually puts more pressure on the children: focusing on one sport, one team, once coach, one schedule and commiting to that team? or hopping from sport to sport, changing uniforms, leaving at half time to race to another tournament, always feeling you've missed something?
How do we find a balance? How do we leave it open for kids to try different things, while not putting a bajillion miles on our mini vans? Should all sports be a little less commitment so we have time to pack in more stuff? But then what about the kids who only want to do the one sport? I don't know. I do know life is short, but most elementary aged kids have plenty of time left. They can play softball this spring and try lacrosse next year.
Ironically, most parents today like to talk about not pushing their kids in a particular sport but pay for more camps, clinics and equipments than our parents would have dreamt. I think it's trendy to pretend you are putting no pressure on your kids. But a little pressure, in the right direction is a good thing. Commitment to a team is a noble value, and working hard to achieve in one field teaches discipline. So if your kid wants to focus on one thing for a while, go for it. And if he "burns out" from too much of one sport, as USA Hockey preaches with terror, who cares? They can try another one. They have plenty of time!