School is back in session this week. But while some kids will just be breaking in new backpacks and shoes, others are on their second or third pair of track shoes or soccer cleats after playing in year-round sports or participating in tournaments all summer.
Organized youth sports aren't always a healthy alternative anymore. Preparing to enter the pool of fierce competitors starts as early as elementary school.
Dr. Jim Taylor, a psychology professor at the University of
San Francisco, put it best when he wrote in the Huffington Post about parents and their roles in developing or supporting a child's athletic prowess.
"If your objective is to turn them into champions, the odds are that you're wasting your money and time and your children's happiness. Sports are metaphorically littered with the scarred psyches of children whose parents tried and failed to do what Earl Woods and Richard Williams succeeded at doing. Your goals as parents are for your children to have fun, learn life skills to succeed later in life, value health and fitness, and develop a love of sports. If by some freak chance you give them world-class athletic genes, they love the sport enough to work incredibly hard, and they get the right kind of support from you, and they become professional or Olympic athletes, then
that's just icing on the cake."
Coronado Patch's Moms Council discuss this issue and their own experiences with kids playing organized sports.
Tonia Accetta: Sports have never come before grades for us,
but we do find ourselves united as a family over dinner talking about the last great play, a win or a loss. I enjoy the involvement we have in sports and the friends in the community that we have made through different organizations. Our kids benefit by making new friendships and through the physical activity that participating requires.
The equipment and coaching can be very pricey and the parents have the choice to invest heavily or not. It depends on your disposable income and your child's passion for the sport. There can be some great life lessons to be learned from sports, such as teamwork and responsibility, so I love to encourage mine to play. If your kid wants to play for the major leagues then that's OK, just have a plan-B option in case you need it.
Tam Dorow: There are a lot of "extreme" parenting behaviors. All of the offensive emotional outbursts I've ever witnessed in sports involve parents. Sure the kids cry sometimes when the plays are not going their way, but they do so quietly, while trying to suppress their emotions, but never a full-on verbal assault of another person. The yelling AT the referees, other players, coaches and other teams is done by parents, not players. If the players were to use one of the invectives coming out of the parents' mouths I'm sure we'd all be shocked and the coach would have to remove the offending player immediately for unsportsmanlike conduct. It's good to know that the athletes exhibit more grace than their parents.
It's just how our society is. We invest so much time, effort, emotion, and money in our children's activities. We can't cheer for them during a spelling test, but we can cheer for them on the athletic field and that's when it all comes out. What percentage of our non-working time is involved in kids sports verses academic, artistic or social endeavors? My family is guilty of this over-investment in sports and we're self-professed nerds.
We are fortunate to be in a position to invest our time and effort in our children's sports and entertainment and it's better we invest in our children's healthy behaviors than anything else.
Kurt Sauter: I don’t know if there have been studies that prove that to excel in sports you need to be driven hard at an early age. Maybe it is necessary to be great. However, it seems that many times pressure from parents on kids to play sports backfires. The children do not like it and get burned out on the sport over the stress. I think that parents should examine their own motivations carefully with all of their children’s activities. If the kid has a natural aptitude, really loves the sport and wants to focus on it, then I see no problem with parents enabling a talent. However, I think it is sad for parents to force kids to focus too much on one aspect of life for the wrong reasons. A sports scholarship to college might be the only way a parent believes their children will be able to attend. The intent may be good but the effect might not ultimately be what the parents intended. Forcing kids to do anything is risky. On the other hand, some kids are afraid to do anything. If the parents don’t encourage them to try new things, they may miss out on many of the great life lessons that can be learned from team sports. It is always a balancing act between being an overbearing parent or a disinterested one. Usually parents know what their kids need. Hopefully they take the time to think about the best way to get involved with their kids.
Suzette Valle: Having run the gamut of sports and other youth-organized activities with both our children, we've had a wide range of experiences, from coaches who have taught our kids the mechanics of a sport, to those who have been good role models (and bad ones too).
We've also made invaluable friendships, forged strong ties with our community and learned some valuable skills. However, the one lesson that resonates with us each season is resilience in the face of adversity and disappointment – a quality that will serve kids well in the real world.
By far, the largest investment in sports we've made with our
children is time, and it has been worth every minute we've spent sitting on cold, hard bleachers watching our kids hold their own. Going through rain, wind, travel and sleepless nights of homework following practices are lessons that sports impart at an early age.
Achieving equilibrium of mind and body is not an easy thing to accomplish especially at the high school level – when it all seems to be on the line – but the life lessons learned during the trying times that are an integral part of youth sports are, for the most part, invaluable.
Tonia Accetta is stay-at-home mom of a teenage boy and a preteen girl. She moved to Coronado in 2002 with her husband of 15 years.
Tam Dorow emigrated from Vietnam when she was 10. She worked at all of the Big 3 U.S. car companies and has been a stay-at-home mom of two for the last 10 years.
Kurt Sauter is a father of two sons, works part-time as a chief engineer and system architect and volunteers with Coronado youth sports organizations.
Suzette Valle is a 20-year Coronado resident who was recognized by Time Warner as one of the local “50 Best Moms” in 2006. She has appeared on the Dr. Phil Show and blogs at MamarazziKnowsBest.com.