Kids and sports: it is a touchy topic. We all want our child to be the best. As parents we think of ways we can make our kid better. We sign them up for clinic after clinic hoping it will result in that starting position. But at what cost?
Let me make this clear, I too want my children to be awesome athletes. I grew up a three sport athlete. I played sports all year round. I was always practicing something or going to a clinic. I put on my first pair of roller skates at three years old, joined the team at four and was competing for a national title in California as a third grader! I get it.
(Claim to fame: me on the podium with Olympic skater Jessica Smith circa 1989.)
I also get the mommy guilt. I have a three year old who is not enrolled in any organized sport. All I have to do is scroll through Facebook to feel the guilt. Saturday morning soccer practice, weekly gymnastics, cheer competitions, etc. My daughter goes to Gym & Swim once a week where she is learning a variety of sports and having some fun play time in the pool. Last winter we had her in “mommy and me” gymnastics where she learned large motor skills, balance and basically just exercised for 45 minutes.
Advice from Gabrielle Reece
There are days when I feel bad that she isn’t in soccer, or mastering her cartwheel. Then I am quickly reminded of what Gabrielle Reece said this summer. Yes, a pro athlete!
Katie from Mommy’s Little Running Buddy stood up and asked, “How do you go about overcoming the pressure of having your children in continued sports?” She went on to explain that like most parents, she feels that “mommy guilt” because she doesn’t always have her children enrolled in a sport of some kind. She gets asked questions of when her children are going to play a certain sport.
Do you know what Gabrielle Reece said? She said, “TELL THEM TO GET OVER IT!” She continued with these statistics:
– 1% of HIGH SCHOOL athletes play in college
– 1% of that 1% go on to play in the pros
She then posed this question, “What is your definition of success?” She continued to say, “To me, it isn’t how many goals scored. It is whether or not they are having fun on the court.”
At three years old my daughter cannot articulate that scoring a goal or winning a game is fun. However she can articulate that swimming with her friends or playing “red light green light” is fun. So that is what I will focus on: getting her moving and having fun.
What do I want for my children?
Do I want both her and M to be in sports? You bet your butt I do! I spent my childhood in a skating rink! I spent my middle school and high school fall and winters on a court. As soon as the weather turned warm you could find me on the diamond! Most of our week night dinners were spent in a uniform talking about the game we just won or lost.
Sports taught me a lot about life. I don’t want my children to miss out on those lessons they learn from playing sports and being on a team. But at what cost? And when is the time right?
At this moment, I cannot answer that question. What I do know is that right, wrong or indifferent my three year old is not going to be enrolled in everything, if anything. She can kick the ball in the backyard, I am happy to teach her how to “bump” a volleyball (that is often her request), and we will spend hours on end running, playing and tumbling. As for my 1 year old: he could be content all day throwing a ball, but that does not mean as soon as he is allowed I will enroll him in tee ball. Why?
I remember that statistic: 1%… 1%. Chances are my children will not be a college or pro athlete. Yes, some day they will have a lesson or be on a team, but the time is not now.
I know that this is a battle from within that comes along with parenting: we all want our child to be the star! A star can be born at home, in the backyard- trust me.
Next time you go sign your preschooler up for that $150 soccer clinic think about that 1%. Are you doing this because you hope they will be that 1%? Or are you doing this because it is truly fun for them?
Let’s not make our little ones grow up any faster. There will be a season for running around from practice to practice. There will be a season for weekend after weekend of games and tournaments. Parents of littles, embrace the season you are in and turn your backyard into the practice field.
Your turn- tell me!
What do you feel is an appropriate age to enroll your children in sports?
How do you find balance and deal with the pressure of kids in sports?
Gail Gerber says
Great article and I agree about turning your backyard into the practice field. Your children will be grown up and out of your backyard before you blink hence the opportunity gone!
That is where we learned the fundaments of most sports, right mom? I remember playing catch in the street and hitting the tennis ball against the garage for hours (and often getting them stuck in the gutters.)
I love this. My boys are 8 and 10. We signed the oldest up for Y soccer and t-ball when he was 3 or 4 b/c we were excited to try something new. He enjoyed running around with his friends, but it never meant much. We didn’t sign our youngest up for these activities. They simply played in the backyard.
Now, we are in the thick of youth sports! I always swore we wouldn’t sign them up for things like all star baseball – until this year when they both begged to try out. Luckily, they both made it and had a great summer playing baseball with their friends.
Watching my kids and their friends, the right time seems to be child dependent. They will let you know what they want to try and when 🙂
Thanks you for reading and giving your input, Susan. I am sure now you wish you had a night to yourselves and not going from place to place. I know the time will come when we are in the thick of it and that is why I will enjoy it now.
Jordan Vaughn says
I am pleased that this topic is getting some attention! My husband and I were both athletes (he played in college, I was in the 99% that didn’t even make a college team!). We approach sports with the attitude that valuable lessons are learned on the court, field, etc., but that the choice to play is ultimately up to our kids. If that means that years down the road they don’t make a team because they didn’t begin practicing at age 3, then so be it! Children have very little time to play and grow in unstructured settings, something I find just as important as learning to function and thrive in structured surroundings (school, sports, etc.). I don’t know if there is a magic age, but at 6 and 4 our kids have learned to swim and have each participated in short sports, tumbling or dance camps. Each was an appropriate length for their age, they had fun, and our family wasn’t exhausted!
Yes Jordan, growth happens in a variety of settings. I don’t know the magic age either and I feel like with each kiddo it may be different. Thanks for reading!
Abby Vander Wiele says
So true Hollie!! Great words of wisdom. My husband and I have gone against the norm and have not let our kids sports rule our lives or our weekends. We have let them do a few week long clinics but we don’t want their sports to be to the detriment of our family. We are not willing to have all of our weekends revolve around our kids sports. Saturdays are our only day that we get to spend as a family together. We do lots of fun activities like go to parks, playgrounds, take family bike rides, take long walks together, have a family movie night, etc.. That time is precious to us and before we know it our kids will be out of our house. I don’t believe that kids have to participate in sports from the time they are walking to be good at them. Their natural talent will come out with some good coaching. My husband and I both love sports, it is actually a big part of who we are. We both played sports all through high school but not as young children. Thanks for your article and I agree with turning your backyard into the practice field when they are young. I feel like so many children are burnt out on sports before high school sports even begin.
Thanks Abby! And thank you so much for reading! Family time is so limited and it is important for our family (too) to be together not the weekends and weeknights and not have many commitments. There will be a time and place for all of that- now is not our time. I love your view!
Lucy, Camden & Max's Mom says
My kids start to play sports at the age of 3. I do it because I would love for them to have the social interaction, the obedience and FUN! My kids also learn responsibility and time management also. They learn to play as a team and not just as an individual. At this young of age I don’t think parents are thinking of their kids going off to college and playing..I know I don’t want to look that far into the future yet. Let them be little. And it’s not a bad thing for parents to put their kids in sports early..some kids need the interaction with other kids their age. They have so much fun and make new friends. If it is ever not fun, they can be done.
Thank you for your comment. I agree that the interaction, the fun, the exercise and the things they learn in sports are great. For our family, we do enough running around as it is and I don’t want to have another commitment each week. I am glad you are okay with pulling your kiddos out when it no longer becomes fun.
Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner says
It’s a tough one for sure! My kids are much older now. Playing in the kiddie leagues gave them a chance to try out a number of different sports to find what they liked. I think you will know what is right for your own kids.
We tried my son in baseball. He played in the dirt more than anything. We ended up stopping that. Later we had him in martial arts. He did well there but he wasn’t keeping his grades up so we stopped that too.
Nicole @ Fitful Focus says
What a great post! And I love Gabby! I think the time is right when your kid expresses an interest in it and gets excited about sports. You can’t force them into anything or do something on someone else’s timeline. If they are surrounded by an active, sporty mom, they’ll want to get into it at some point, I’m sure!
[email protected] says
Oh goodness this was easy for me, when my daughter was 6 she played t-ball. We also had horses and she was getting into that. During that first season playing ball got in the way of us riding our horses and she didn’t like that much so after finishing the season we didn’t sign up anymore. Did I feel guilty, heck no when we were out late it was at a horse show and my daughter and I both participated. She never wanted to play organized sports because it would take away from her time and training of her horses. Now she’s 19 and has her own horses (3) a trailer and a truck to pull it.
I couldn’t agree more! It drives me crazy when I see people with their wee toddlers on a golf practice range trying to teach them the finer points of a golf swing… you just KNOW they are all hoping for a future Tiger Woods!
Great post!!! It definitely is all about the right timing. My daughter is enrolled in soccer this year but her interest isn’t really there. Going to wait to see if she wants to do it again next year and if she doesn’t then I definitely won’t make her 🙂
Such a great perspective. My daughter played soccer for fun when she was younger but we stopped when the other girls started to get competitive and it was clear that she did not have the same drive. Now, she enjoys running and hiking and although I’d love for her to be part of a team – the more important thing is that she learn and build a foundation that being active and spending time outdoors is part of a healthy lifestyle.
Kathryn @ Dancing to Running says
Lots for me to think about, especially since I’m currently pregnant with our first child. I love the idea of turning the backyard into a practice field.
I don’t really feel pressure or give it much thought, Iet my daughter tell me what she wants and then we do it, this year it is cheerleading. I think sports are great but I want her to want to do them.
MCM Mama Runs says
My boys are 14 and 10. They both started playing soccer at age 5. The older one quit soccer at age 9 and is uninterested in team sports. My younger one started travel soccer at the age the other one quit. In both cases, the decision was driven by them. I think that’s the key thing. Offer activities that promote movement and your kids will quickly find things that interest them. Let them lead the charge towards what (if any) sport they want to play.
jill conyers says
The age to start depends on the child and if they’re interested in sports. My rule of thumb. Don’t force it, let them try many things and have fun.
Patty @ Reach Your Peak says
interesting! I never would have thought of all this (I dont have kids yet). All very good points about success and how we measure it. Sure I’d love to have my kids play sports, but I will also want it to be their choice and not something I force them to do.
I follow my daughter’s example when it comes to extra curricular activities. If she starts talking about something, we’ll explore it. If she loses interest, we move on. Right now, Hannah is enrolled in Ballet and Swimming. Ballet because she dances around the house and doesn’t stop talking about it. Swimming because I think it’s a necessary life skill…and she also happens to love it. But everything else can wait. She has plenty of years ahead of her to play. No need to push.
I think swimming is great for kids, Tara-getting comfortable in the water is a lifeskill. C loves dance too and talks about ballet and dances around non stop… for now, I will just let her dance around.
I don’t plan on having kids, but when my brother and I were little, my parents kinda put us into all sorts of sports/activities so we could pick something we liked + stick with it. I was unfortunately a sheep and decided not to continue with gymnastics/tumbling because my brother didn’t want to do it. (Sigh.) There are a bunch of things I wish I’d either stuck to or had the chance to learn, but I like to think it’s better late than never!
Thanks for reading Farrah!
Cynthia @ You Signed Up For WHAT?! says
Great topic to discuss – my older two are in organized sports but my youngest just does a soccer class as a fun activity.