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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sports - the other S-word

Sports...they are America's favorite pastime, right?  Maybe for some...maybe not for others.

I do not judge.

We chose to put the Crazies in sports pretty early just to get some of their energy out in a positive way.  

Oy...the energy is overwhelming!

Anyway, as we've weaved our way through this maze of sports, sports seasons, uniforms, registration fees, coaching, assistant coaching, team mothering, and snacks, we've come to a few conclusions.

I will now share.

  1. Playing more than one sport is good for kids.  Doesn't sounds that shocking, right?  Kids should try new things.  Kids should explore.  Kids should be confident with multiple sports.  Here's the problem...parents are having their kids specialize in one sport at an early age.  For example, travel sports start when kids are 7-8 (around here).  That's around 3rd grade.  Soon after that, it leads to Winter practices, clinics, pitching practice, strength training, etc.  It's too much.  It's WAY too much!  If kids can't play another sport in their "off-season," there's a problem.
  2. Children's bodies need different kinds of conditioning to be generally strong and healthy.  Again, doesn't sound that shocking, right?  When kids are JUST playing baseball year round, their bodies will wear out in the areas that they continue to use.  Other parts of their bodies will not get enough action and may.  Example:  If a kid plays soccer in the Fall, their legs get good tone and their footwork gets worked on and strengthened.  If that same kid plays basketball in the Winter, their running and hand-eye coordination gets worked on as well as their accuracy as they strive to make baskets.  If that same kid plays baseball in the Spring, they work on their upper body and fielding (as well as patience in the field).  That kids will have conditioned every part of his/her body through that year and will be ready to start back in the Fall with soccer and their lower body.  Nothing really burns out b/c it's all getting used throughout the year.
  3. Kids need to have multiple coaches.  Just like they need to have different types of teachers, kids benefit from having different coaches, learning various strategies, and developing a variety of skills.  Coaches are an integral part of developing athletes and can really make the difference between them loving a sport and never wanting to play again.  The one thing that we can look out for is the "over-involved coach."  This is the coach that ONLY wants your kid to play lacrosse and feels that they can take your child "all the way."  Not only is this unrealistic, but it's a little creepy too.
  4. Specializing in one sport is a great way to lead your kids to Burnout City.  Kids need variety.  Kids need to be challenged.  Kids need to learn different and new skills.  If they are playing one sport year-round, they will get bored, they will start to resent it, and they will end up hating it.  I taught a kid last year who was a soccer whiz.  He was amazing.  He loved the sport, but ended up crying in the principal's office in October (after acting out in defiance during several of his classes).  Turns out that with all of the time and effort he was spending on his THREE soccer teams, he didn't have the time or energy to concentrate on school.  He was EXHAUSTED and truly couldn't handle any more.  I felt for this kid.  I judged his parents.  I wanted to lessen his workload, but that wouldn't be fair to him.  He needed to learn just how much he could handle and what was too much.  The feeling of being overwhelmed is a feeling that we all need to learn about.  We never know what "too much" feels like until we're already dealing with "too much."  For kids this is a tough lesson to learn.  I'm afraid that my student is going to end up hating soccer and never really coming to his true potential because it was just too much.
  5. There are other activities out there besides sports!!!  Where are the arts?  Where are the piano lessons?  Where are the Lego clubs?  Have Girls Scouts completely disappeared?  There needs to be an emphasis on a well-rounded person coming out of these childhoods.  Other activities will challenge kids on multiple levels as well.  They need to understand what it means to practice using their brain.  They need practice in different social situations as well.  They not only need to know how to act within a team, but also how to be alone.  All of these are challenges that are lost when our kids are so focused on a sport that there isn't time for anything else.
So, I'll step off my soapbox now and leave you with this...if your kids love a sport, by all means, encourage their participation.  If your kids are interested in something else, find a way for them to be involved in that as well.  If sports are taking over YOUR life, check yourself before you wreck yourself.  Is it really worth it to you to be at a tournament every weekend for 4 months straight?  Is it really worth it to schedule your family vacations around a sports team?  Is it really worth it that your kids miss family events, school concerts, movie night, sleepovers, and the multitude of other events that occur during childhood just because he or she "has a game?"  

Just something to think about.  I think we need an uprising of people who believe that sports should no longer take the drivers seat...try shot gun for a weekend...or the backseat...put it in the trunk for a little while!  Don't let it take over your life!  I know it's hard.  I know there's pressure.  I know your kid LOVES the sport, but don't let the sport become all-important.  That is all.  I am done.  Curious to hear what you all think.


Barbara Manatee said...

Sing it sister!

Love this post. We just wrapped up our baseball/softball/t-ball season.

Sarah tried softball. Didn't love it. I doubt she'll play next summer. She's looking forward to getting back to gymnastics but I'm glad she tried it and she's considering trying basketball this winter (and wants to do girl scouts).

Adam has a love/hate relationship with t-ball. He's always excited to start the season then fizzles out but then ends well. I have yet to find what he really likes but we'll keep trying things!

Jacob LOVES baseball. Seriously LOVES it. Enough that I'm surprised he hasn't asked to play travel ball already. But at 7, I'm not ok with going that far yet so I'm glad he hasn't asked. I'm very glad he's interested in basketball too and will try that again this winter (he did a few clinics last winter). He does Cub Scouts and Chess, too, so I'm very happy with the variety he's getting.

A few of his friends though - wow. One family has 5 boys Kdg-5th grade. they do it all. Part of me is uber impressed with how much they let the boys do and how much they support them but I am kinda shocked by the intense training and weight lifting already for wrestling. Is lifting weights OK for young boys? That seems like too much to me. They do soccer, football, baseball, wrestling. They also do go kart racing and Cub Scouts. They are great kids and good parents but sometimes I just wonder if its too much. I don't know how they do it all!

After all that, Sarah's glad softball is done and can't wait to get back to gymnastics. Jacob already misses baseball. Adam's glad to just be him and looking forward to Kdg. :-)

Shell said...

This is awesome!

My boys play sports(why I started, trying to figure out how to juggle it all). But they play different sports. And they're allowed to take breaks. Specializing is something that drives me crazy- whether it's one sport or even one position- the kids are too young for it!