By: Deirdre Littlefield
Youth sports have taken over suburbia in the last decade or so. Our kids expect to play every sport, every season, because everybody is. Sports don’t even seem to have a season anymore. Spring soccer starts in the winter, fall soccer now begins before Labor Day and hockey doesn’t have a beginning or an end at all. Lacrosse camps go all winter, as well, to ensure competitiveness come spring.
Youth sports can offer so many benefits to our children. They teach them loyalty, empathy, camaraderie, and give them physical and emotional strength. When you’re running from one team to the next though, I’m not sure those are the lessons they are learning.
As adults, we have somehow gotten wrapped up in wanting our kids to be the best at everything. Now, if they don’t play extra soccer at age ten, they may never make the team in high school. This is how we justify ourselves into letting them play ten sports each season. Each kid is different so it’s hard to decide how much they can handle and when enough is enough. It’s really hard saying no to your child when their friends are obviously becoming better at a sport that they love. I’ve spent more time than I care to admit wondering if I made the wrong decision in saying no. If I can’t withstand the peer pressure though, I’m not sure I can expect my kids to be able to in the years to come.
So instead of wondering if a sport is too much on one specific child, I’ve started to look at my family as a whole and our original hopes and dreams. It doesn’t matter how many sports they play. What matters is that our family is flourishing. Most important is that my sons have time to bond, read, create, and play freely in the neighborhood that was so important to us when looking for our home. We need time for homework and to identify and solve school issues. We also need time to eat nutritionally and support healthy sleep. It is of utmost importance to me that my children are kind; I need free time to teach them that. I also want them to learn how to live in the quiet moments. My husband and I need time to talk so that when these kids move on we are not strangers.
If I’m deviating from what I think is best for our family then the answer is clear — my kids are playing too many sports. It’s my job to keep them healthy and well rounded- whether they like it or not!