How many times have you heard this conversation starter? “I’ve got to take little (insert kids’ name here) to soccer at 4, then to basketball at 6:30, then to the batting cages at 9. He’s going to be the first triple pro sports figure of all time!
Whatever happened to letting a kid be a kid? Why do we push them from one sport to another? So we can talk on our cell phones and avoid interacting with them for an entire evening? The role of parenting has changed from mom and pop to taxi cab driver. Are our kids spending more time with the coach than with their parents?
Is your dinner table in your minivan? When is the last time the whole family sat down at the dinner table (besides Christmas) and it didn’t involve Ronald McDonald?
Life is about balance. Picture yourself working full time and going to two different part time jobs after work. Oh, and after you get home, prepare your presentation for your full time job for tomorrow. That is what we expect of our kids when we send them to school during the day, taxi them to two different sports practices in the evening, and throw in the homework at night. Have they had time to be a kid?
A friend of mine who coaches football here in town. Like myself, he’s been coaching kids for many years. For the last five years, he has continued to coach although his kids have grown out of the league. He loves to coach kids, he’s darn good at it, but lately he’s expressed some frustration with the triple sports pro figure phenomenon. My friend mentioned to me that a lot of the kids show up late or not at all to practice because of commitments to other sports. The parents get angry when their kids don’t play in the games because they missed practice. They feel the absence is excused because the child was at another sporting event. By the time some of these kids get to practice, they are so tired from the other sports, they have difficulty figuring out which ball to use and which sport they are supposed to be playing. You’ve got kids kicking soccer balls at the shortstop and football players taking slap shots at the linebacker.
I think that the main source of the triple sports pro figure phenomenon is the level of commitment required from travel sports teams. Parents are traveling around the country to give their kids the opportunity to play other eight year olds with crazy parents too. Some parents feel travel ball allows their children to see the country. How much of the country can you see from the hot dog stand? How much of our retirement are we using on hotel bills for overnight tournaments? Is this fair to the other children in the family? Is this the new definition of the family vacation? How much of their college fund are we spending to get them a sports scholarship for sports they will be burned out on by college age?
Remember when we used to have baseball season, football season, hockey season, and basketball season? Most travel sports are played throughout the entire year. When one season is over, the sport should be over. If soccer and baseball season occur at the same time, the child should choose one or the other. If we let our children pick one, and only one sport to play per season, we may be able to solve the global warming (sorry President Trump) problem because we won’t consume so much gasoline running junior back and forth from one sport to another.
Has your kid ever climbed a tree? When is the last time they played kick the can? When is the last time you sat down as a family to watch their favorite movie (and I don’t mean on the flip down screen in your minivan?) What happened to the Sandlot baseball game? Take your business suit off, put your jeans and t-shirt on, turn off your cell phone, and play catch in the backyard with your son or daughter. It will benefit you as much as it will them.
One season, one sport. After that, you’ll actually have time to be a family.