Friday, April 16, 2010

Kids in Serious Sports

Today I'm pondering over the hectic pace of life that kids live when they play a serious sport. I have been talking to parents of kids on my son's lacrosse team and hearing how they manage this lifestyle and I've been talking to my relatives who have two kids in a serious sport year round plus with the father coaching one. This is a more complicated than I had imagined it was.

I used to have not good things to say about pushing competitive sports down to young aged kids and negative ramifications on the family and relationships. I think now in the end it boils down to not anything bad the sport puts into the child but what doing that sport prevents the child from doing with the family (or eating good meals or doing their homework). This same argument is what the AAP uses to try to dissuade parents of kids under age two from watching ANY television. They say the child aged 0-2 needs to do other things with their time and the TV robs those experiences away.

My opinion of kids in sports is starting to shift. This is yet another 'not all black and white' issue; it has lots of shades of gray. Since every child is unique what is good for one child is not good for another and some kids need certain things that participation in a sports team can provide while other kids seem fine without any of those experiences.

Today what I want to share is that I feel a little sorry for the young kids in sports and the hectic pace of their lifestyle. Here are two peeks into private league sports that kids in my town are eligible to play.

Football: My neighbor told me her son is thriving in football. The league begins in grade two. In August there are three hour practices Monday-Friday and the team does not allow the child to miss any practices. So the family can forget a summer vacation in August. It is hot and humid here in August and these outdoor practices are brutal on the body.

Once September hits there are three practices on weekdays and a Saturday. The games are Saturday and Sunday and are held across two states. The commute to each game can be as long as 90 minutes in each direction. The family must drive their child or they have to carpool. Some games on Saturday or Sunday begin at seven in the morning so the family has to leave the house by 5:30 a.m.

The mother told me on Halloween night (a Friday school day) that the husband and son were getting up at five in the morning to head to a town in New York state after a late night trick or treating followed by a Halloween party. She worried that both her son and husband were going to be too exhausted to handle that.

On top of that busy schedule, the games frequently would change up to eight hours before game time an email would be sent changing it to another earlier or later time or to the next day. Sunday church services must be skipped if the game conflicts but most skip it anyway as it winds up being the only day in the week the child can sleep late. Once she'd planned a birthday party for her son on a Sunday afternoon and the game changed from Saturday early morning to mid-afternoon Sunday and she had to postpone the party with one day's notice!

Lacrosse: This seems more lenient but it was made clear the players who will play in the games are the ones who attend practice not necessarily the ones with the highest skill. This is the biggest challenge for kids trying to play two sports (Little League baseball or AYSO soccer).

Still I went into this thinking it was a three weeknight and a Saturday commitment. There are lots of last minute changes such as changing the field/town we practice in, lengthening the practice from 90 minutes to two hours or adding additional practices to five a week total. This was the last straw and I finally switched from an old no frills mobile phone which I barely used to get a Droid so I can check email and use the Internet (to get addresses for fields) while I'm away from home.

I also didn't understand there could be both a Saturday morning practice and a Saturday game so the sport may use both our morning and afternoon.

Lastly that the three practices on weekdays are separate from the games so the child may have three practices and two games on the other two weeknights plus the Saturday practice.

The fact that games can be a good 45 minutes drive one way (without traffic but the kicker is that the weekday games ARE in rush hour) means the kids who go to school are basically getting off the bus, grabbing a big snack or early dinner while they run to get changed and jump in the car to get to the game. They arrive home between 8-8:30 p.m. Some are still hungry so a snack or a second dinner is eaten then. Next they have homework before they get to bed (after showering of course).

You would think a mother-at-home would have it easy but not necessarily. If the child has one or more siblings, all these activities are happening at the same time: Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, horse riding lessons, music lessons, so forth and so on. Getting a kid to another town for a practice or a game with strict times for arrival and departure can be tricky! I am struggling with this and I have just two children, one in a sport and Cub Scouts and the other in just Boy Scouts. This is a low amount of extra-curricular activities for kids living in Fairfield County!

Dual income families with married parents have it especially hard. The parents are juggling work, some with long commutes into Manhattan and some have business travel. Children of divorce have it harder when the mother with custody works outside the home and if the father is currently employed.

Carpools seem almost necessary even for one child in a sport. Sometimes a carpool with a pick up and drop off is not good enough though. The carpool parent might have to take the kids back to her house for pick up later (unless a young child is a latch key kid which is risky depending on their age). I saw a nanny at a game this week and some parents I've never met as the child is in a carpool so often.

I now can see why school kids in one sport have no time for TV or video games. There is hardly any time for school, homework and the sport. Oh and the sport has homework too (throw 100 balls using each hand, etc.).

There are positive benefits to participating in a sport which can justify all this nuttiness. But today what's on my mind is just trying to schedule it all and to share that I'm feeling a bit bewildered about how parents of schooled kids pull this off. It's challenging to say the least.

For us with homeschooling it sometimes is easier and sometimes harder. I am already finding a conflict with some homeschool events. Sometimes the sport will mean we cannot sign our son up for a certain academic thing happening at that same time which I'd planned for him to do which lessens his homeschool experience as I'd intended.

This week after six hours of hiking in an experiential homeschool class my son had to play a game. The poor kid had legs of lead by the end of the day. I'd thought that night of the week was always off but sometimes there are games (apparently).

But we also can let our son sleep late if he has no appointments for homeschool events the next morning (we have two days of the week like that). On some days I have more time at home (than a mother working outside the home does) to figure out what to make us all for dinner on the go. I am presently researching ideas for healthy foods that can be eaten on the run rather than converting to deli meat sandwiches every single night and without overly relying on eating pretzels and crackers to substitute for real meals.

This is a bit of a rat race.

We're adjusting. So far the positives outweigh the negatives, but that's a story for another day.


christinemm said...

Spoke to a friend on the phone who has 2 kids in school and both in Scouts and do one sport per season and one is also in choir.

Sunday: bought family pack of fresh chicken meat.

Monday morning: put chicken in oven with seasonings and set oven timer to bake automatically later in day.

Tuesday night: Stir fry chicken and vegetables with seasonings and serve with fresh boiled pasta.

Wednesday night: Make chicken tacos using skillet on stovetop.

Also foods on the run are handful of nuts (protein), single serve cups of yogurt, and fresh fruit eaten out of the hand.

christinemm said...

Friend shared on Twitter they use the crock pot for meals and eat snack foods on the run and some junk food too.

Ina's 5 and our Native Homeschool Blog said...

Holay! I have no idea how you accomplish that. I have 4 kids in sports, but we are talking one - two days a week each, low key (karate, swimming and recreational gymnastics). AND one is a ten minute walk(walked by older sib if needed), one a 20 min walk (walks herself) and one we usually drive but they can bus if needed. I think in general sports in canada are not as competitive (except hockey). You can't send a kid 90 min. away on their own. I can only hope (for you) that scoutsis closer to home.

Jessica said...

My daughter gave up competitive figure skating at the tender age of 8. 3-4 trips to Simsbury a week (from Fairfield County) as well as every Saturday (7am - 1 or 2pm) took away from her father, who works in Mahattan and only gets quality time with his children on weekends. We tried switching her to a local rink with a local coach but the program was not of the caliber she was used to. In the end, she choose her family over a sport she LOVED and I was very proud of her for making a tough choice. Now at age 9 1/2 she loves basketball, a much more family friendly sport.....for now!

Brooke said...

I work with moms all across the country on ways to bring balance into their sports lives. All in all, kids who have had the chance to be involved with sports can look back on the experience and state they are better for it. It is very difficult for moms--but I wrote the book for you.

Brooke de Lench
Author of: HOME TEAM ADVANTAGE: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (Harper Collins 2006)

Pamela said...

Nice post. I agree it is bewildering and hard to find balance. It's almost like we have TOO MANY good opportunities to choose from, and the same number of hours in the day.
How much is too much?
I pondered the sports thing quite a bit when my son played basketball earlier this year...