As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in a pink home. The world of boys, balls, and sports was beyond foreign to me. Of course, girl world can be full of sports and competition too, but I wasn’t one of those girls. It was all violin, barbies, and piano. Jumping rope on the playground was about as active as I got. My sisters and I played paper dolls inside and made salads out of weeds and acorns outside in the woods.
Then I entered the world of boys. And wow – mine like to run around, like a lot. The natural thing to do is to get them into something – anything – to burn off some of that energy. So around age two while still in diapers, they both began to run off their toddler chub up and down the soccer field. It’s the first activity the little ones can enter around here, and thus our world of sports began.
For L, soccer quickly transitioned to T-ball and Tuff football and so on and so forth. And here we are now possibly faced with baseball drafts and tackle football.
My stomach is in a knot. Really… really? Is that what happens now? He’s eight. Does that seem incredibly young to anyone else, or am I just being naïve? I can’t rationalize it all because it all just seems so… intense.
The schedules can be intense. The coaching can be intense. The parents can be intense. People talk about each others kids… or a lot about their own. Try-outs are strange. The politics that go into it all can totally suck you in. Who is better friends with which coach, who has an older brother that has lead the way, who is playing house ball versus travel versus flag versus tackle. Who is playing up, who is playing down. Who is taking lessons, who has a private coach, who did the extra camps. So much chit chat about something that is still so… innocent.
At least I like to think it is.
See, I watch the games to see L’s face light up when he hits that line drive. Or when he slides into second with a goofy grin. I cheer just as hard for his friends – competition or not.
I like to bring popsicles for the little siblings who are cheering on their big brothers, and once in awhile an occasional adult cocktail for that 5PM Saturday practice (wink wink).
I buy Vikings gear when L is a Viking and dress us in red, black, and white to cheer on his best friend in tackle.
I try to teach L to thank the coaches after each and every game because it is a lot of work and time to fit in for dads who simply don’t have a lot of time to give.
I pack full sports gear for B so he can somewhat think he’s on the team while I’m snapping photos of plays and texting them to grandparents. I cheer at an appropriate level and bake hot dog melts after Sunday night baseball practices and serve warm bowls of chili after 45 degree football games. We have teammates over to bond and run and play in our wide open front yard free of rules, parents, and coaches. Always the best games, in my opinion, not to mention we have the most extreme ball and gatorade bottle hunt in the world the next morning (sorry Tina!).
Because that’s the appropriate world of sports in my opinion, for an eight year old. It’s one I can wrap my mind around and be proud to be apart of. It’s what I’m going to continue to encourage and to stand by, as everything else is insignificant. And most importantly, I’m going to be sure that L (and B!) understand that after each and every game all I feel is this.
Who’s with me?
P.S. The ‘race to nowhere‘ is a wonderful view, should you have the time.
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This is definitely a hotly debated topic!
My son was around 2 when he started gymnastics and that paved the way for 16 years of organized youth, middle school, and high school sports. His little league baseball team won the Indiana state championship in 2003 and went on to play for a chance to go to the Little League World Series. He also played high school football, baseball, and wrestling. It was exhausting. Lol.
It’s been my experience that the 2 ends of the sports parents spectrum are those who are simply happy that their child is involved in something, and those who think their kid is the next Derek Jeter. I’m actually okay with both because, let’s be honest, if there weren’t parents pushing kids to do their best, many kids would never go on to be great (at anything, not just sports).
(I was a somewhere-in-the-middle kind of parent. I knew my son would never be a pro athlete but on the other hand, if his sports were going to monopolize our entire weekend/summer/life, I expected him to play to win, to be a good sport, and to always work to improve his performance.)
You hear people say that winning isn’t everything and what really matters is how you play the game, but I say BOTH are important. Kids who learn to win (and do it graciously) at a young age are more likely to go on to successful lives as adults. And anyway, we all know it’s more fun to win than to lose, so I totally think we should be teaching our kids that it’s not enough simply to participate, but that they should continually strive to win and to constantly improve their personal performance.
I think organized sports are important for so many reasons, and I truly think it’s never too early to get your kids involved IF sports are something they’re interested in. If not sports, then find another activity that will challenge them and teach them to work and play with others. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, so kids really do need to be involved in SOMETHING.
As for whether or not 8 years old is too young for all the drama that’s often associated with youth sports, I guess that’s every parent’s individual decision to make. I know that most professional athletes start playing when they’re very small and I think we can all agree that practice makes perfect, so it’s never too soon to start honing your skills. The important thing, even if your kid truly is the next Derek Jeter, is to find the balance that works for YOUR family, knowing that it might not be right for someone else’s.
(Sorry… I could write for days on this topic! Didn’t mean to hijack your blog!)
I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this! I think you nailed it on the head with the ‘somewhere in the middle.’ I think, like most things, it’s all about balance. I want him to be interested, happy, and good, which he typically is. That’s enough for me. I don’t blend well with parents who think they are raising the next Derek Jeter so I will simply avoid that, if I can. 😉
Loved this post, very interesting and agree on most of it( hate tryouts etc so tough on everyone but it is a fair way to see who should be together). As a parent of a 6 and 8 year old involved in travel hockey, it is about winning but also all about how well or bad the team played,and best of all about team work, however, there is very litle room for anything else, they are happy and they love it, but sometimes they just miss being home and having a playdate, so for me, its not about the parent drama, we are lucky to not have that or get involved right now, its more about finding time, so I try my best for that balance, and hey this year in chicago there have been so many snow/cold days, that they have had time for playdates.
I think it can get as intense as you let it, meaning if it reaches the level when it is too much for your kids and your family, you have an option of pulling out. You don’t have any control over the league/team culture. I know some people whose kids truly enjoy this lifestyle, with all the intensity. And I know other type, who do it purely to keep up with the Jonses.
We haven’t been in the extremely demanding sport teams, by choice. We decided early on, that we will limit football experience to flag football, and my son is on-board with this. He is also enrolled in a basketball league, a pretty laid back one.
Agree with Christina, that balance (or the lack of) is the best way to judge if the involvement in a sport activity is working for your family. I also think it’s a good idea to not go with the flow, and do reality checks once in a while.
Thanks for the video, it is nice to see a different perspective.
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I think it’s all about finding something your child enjoys, and bringing a healthy competitive spirit out. At a young age, it’s more about effort than winning. Kids learn great lessons when they give 100%. If they win, they learn what it takes. If they lose, they learn that their best isn’t always good enough. So many good sports cliches!
I get how you feel. It was very stressful for me when I had to run 4 days a week with my son, but it gets easier when they are older.
This is so funny… Hubby comes from a die-hard sports family, like crazy into it. So, Little Man does soccer and swimming year round and we love it. He loves it and we are proud of everything he does, and of course Hubby is always coaching, so I am forever the coach’s wife, doing all the scheduling 🙂
We are so not diehard sports centered. I am eager to get my children into some sort of physical activity but they are still just a bit too little.
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We try to balance things for our kids. We let them decide what they want to play but we make sure they know it is not going to run their lives.
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We love sports around here, but just playing them. We are not die hard like a lot of people are though- it gets tough as kids get older. I have a 12 year old, and it’s a tough age when it comes to sports. We just encourage the kids to do what they want and enjoy really- no pressure from us or anyone else when it comes to sports!
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My son is so not the sportsman but he does do marching band. I have found this is just as intense and time consuming as sports.
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Totally. Marching band can be insane! What does he play?
I grew up in a world of pink as well. I have three girls and two of them are all about sports. So I have learned to adapt. I love being the soccer mom and the one who hardly misses a game.
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I am so nervous about this. My daughter is only 2 but we definitely want to get her involved in sports. I’m not really looking forward to all of the stress that comes with it. For them and for us!
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School sports weren’t a huge part of our life but my kids did take part in track and cross country. It wasn’t too intense but team sports definitely were.
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My children played sports from a young age but it always more fun than super competitive. I think they learned a lot of great lessons through sports but some parents definitely take it too far and ruin it for their kids – and others!
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I always thank the coaches after a game too. We finally got a GREAT coach last season and I was so so so grateful. We bought him a gift at the end of the season. 😉
That’s great – love it!
I was very competitive and athletic growing up…and yet, now, with three daughters they are growing up in a version of a pink house too. lol Good sportsmanship is such an important thing to teach and learn. Respecting yourself, teammates, opponents, and coaches…I love that you encourage your boys to thanks coaches at the end of each event!
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Ugh, my stomach would be in knots too. My son starts kindergarten next year, so I know these questions are right around the corner for us!
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My girls were not into sports much, but their brother was. Now my granddaughters can get out there and give it all they got.
They grow up so fast! I just think it’s great that he can find something he’s passionate about at an early age. I don’t think you’re just good at something for the heck of it. It’s got to be triggered with the fact that you love it too.
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When Jason was younger I was totally a sports Mom. He played all sports and we never missed a game. I sure miss those days -priceless memories
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My son’s six and I can already see our lives heading in this direction!
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This was a very profound Article. I liked the valid points and the tips you included like the Popsicles at games. I had no idea being a Parent of a child in sports is so demanding
I was into sports as a kid and i’ll be interested to see if my daughter is interested or not!
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I can’t wait to go to little league games with my son when he is older. I would love to get involved with children’s sports.
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When my son was young he was involved with all of the sports teams. But i would not have had it any other wa
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I only hope that my son can even participate in sports or anything. He has developmental delays so we are working on them to get him where can do something with his peers.
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I grew up in a pink home as well so when my Godson came along I had to learn how to be that mom at sports games. OH I’m still learning so I understand where you are coming from .