Don’t get me wrong, I actually really LOVE youth sports! I love that my kids can join a team and learn all the values that come with working together for a win, or even a lesson-filled loss. Learning respect for coaches and opponents is among my favorite virtues of sports. Then there’s the exercise they get and healthy muscles they build. The deep connections that make a team feel more like a family and hearing a crowd cheer for each kid on our team, regardless if they are the starter or the last off the bench…well, it’s heartwarming.
It amazes me how much my own kids grow during each sports season, and not just physically. I admit, I have been to games where the Refs are very obviously biased. I know they are human and I would never actually say anything to them about it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t notice. But if I dare to point that out after the game, my son will immediately negate that and say he should have worked harder. I still clearly saw the bias, but it makes me so proud that there are no excuses and the buck stops with him and his team.
I have so many wonderful things to say about youth sports.
But…youth sports are out of control. There. I said what so many of us have been thinking. Despite all the amazing things sports can and do bring to our families, they are stealing so much from us as well. How many memes have to circulate laughing about “We’re not home, we’re at the ballfield” and “We can eat dinner at 4:30pm or 9pm,” before we all wake up and realize that youth sports practices and games should not be stealing all of our family time from us? Why are practices scheduled over our family dinner time? Society is breaking down, and yet we can’t keep our family dinners? And it gets worse. What about the weekend-long tournaments that are scheduled during holiday weekends? Those are supposed to be the long weekends where we take our kids to visit extended family or to see parts of the country they haven’t seen before. Instead, we sleep in hotels and sit on the sidelines all weekend, just waiting for the snippets of games where our kids are playing. And younger siblings are often dragged along out of necessity.
When our full-year schedule comes out and there are practices scheduled during spring and fall breaks and games scheduled until December 24th and again on December 28th, I wonder how we are supposed to travel for Christmas. And then once school is out and we think we can relax a little, there are all-day summer camps hours away, in different locations for weeks. How is a parent supposed to be supportive and get their kid to these, while holding down a job? And how on earth are we supposed to have family vacations when all our time off school is scheduled for a sport?
Our time, our precious “18 summers” with our kids, is slowly being siphoned away in the name of youth sports.
And then there are the sports injuries. Children are being taken to their doctors and the emergency room in numbers never seen before for injuries due to sports. The repetitive practices and games, and the sports starting earlier in childhood is taking a toll. These overuse injuries were frequently seen in adult recreational athletes, but are now being seen in children. Sure, our kids are getting a lot out of their sports teams, but at what cost? Injuries can follow you for the rest of your life. We are talking like 80 years of possible issues from a childhood sport.
I realize that most times, kids are really enjoying the sport. They enjoy the time with their team. And maybe, if they work hard enough, they’ll get a college scholarship to play the sport. But did you know that only about 2% of high school athletes get a scholarship? Everything we are sacrificing, all the family time and the health of our kids’ joints etc., and they aren’t even guaranteed a gig in college.
It’s all very discouraging to me. I wish there were a way for our kids to play for their school teams or their “Rec Leagues,” and to learn the amazing lessons out there, but without sacrificing so much of our family time and so much of our kids’ health to do it.