Saturday, January 11, 2014


I could fill a blog responding to the things I hear parents say.  Last night two parents were talking about the commitments our children have to sports and how much time it takes them away from the family.  I was involved in my own internal struggle with sports as my girls had their gymnastics class, which they love, but also had their first basketball game just an hour and a half after the end of gymnastics class.  They were sore and tired, and that dampened their excitement for basketball.

It seems that my children’s commitment to a once a week non-competitive gymnastics class and an 8 week recreational basketball league is nothing compared to what some families are putting themselves through.  I cannot imagine having a 14 year old who leaves my house at 7:00am for school and does not return until 11:30pm due to basketball games and then has to study until 1:00 or 2:00am to keep on top of her grades.  Just can’t imagine it.  I also cannot imagine having multiple children playing multiple sports on separate travel teams, not just for one season, but season after season, after season.

I am clearly not a sports Mom.  In fact I just said these exact words to my sister in law.  I am not a sports Mom.  I did not play sports in high school.  My acceptance into college was not contingent upon playing sports nor will it be for my daughters, and no matter how hard I try, I cannot understand the value that our society places on sports and athletes.   So imagine my distress when I overhead one mom tell another that we do this willingly so that we don’t deprive our children of anything.  

When I think of the definition of deprived, I think being without those things necessary for our survival.  Many people are deprived of food, of shelter, of clean water, of a good education, of a loving supportive family.  That is tragic and unfair.  

de·prived [dih-prahyvd]  (
marked by deprivation; lacking the necessities of life, as adequate food and shelter: a deprived childhood.

To deprive a child of a sport, to withhold it from them, will not kill them.  It may make them angry, or sad, or frustrated, but it will not deprive them of any basic necessities of life.  In fact, it may do the opposite, it may provide them with more of the things that are in fact, necessary for a healthy life, such as time for family dinners, time for bedtime snuggles, time for unhurried homework, time for conversation, time to focus on faith.  

I live in a ridiculous part of the country and it is becoming more and more apparent to me as I age.  When we equate travel teams and sports leagues with depravation, our priorities as parents and as a culture are skewed.  


Sandra said...

I don't think it is just sports. So many parents think it is important to fill their kid's time with a whole raft of extra-curricular activities so that no talent goes undiscovered and undeveloped. Free time seems to be the one thing that isn't valued. As a non-sporting parent myself I agree with you and really struggle with my kid's sporting endeavours (and only two out of the four have really participated in sport) - especially my 13 yo daughter's competitive trampolining. I've resisited every step of the way - firstly she was only doing recreational sport for fun, then I agreed to her training with the competitive squad but only for casual hours, then I let her compete but only locally and I limited the number of hours she could train. Needless to say this hasn't made me popular with her club (I know I'm not liked because I'm strange - homeschooling doesn't help - and difficult and don't just do what we are told: I suspect my daughter has been denied some opportunities as a result). They can't understand my desire for family time and my concerns about damaging young bodies by training too much. I'm apparently overprotective and stunting her growth. I've also been told I should get a part-time job so we can afford more training. Not happening! Realistically my daughter is not going to become an Olympian (we couldn't afford the training for one thing!) and while I'm happy for her to participate in the sport she loves, I won't let it totally dominate our lives. Next week I've agreed to start one extra training session (but refused to get up to take her to the 6:15 am slot - she is not a morning person right now and I won't cut into her sleep) - mainly because she is frustrated that others are developing more quickly than she is and also because she is a little older. I'm not looking forward to it at all though. Luckily the travel time is only 10 minutes each way. I do worry about her training cutting into family time but realistically we are lucky to have as much as we do. My 19 and 21 yo are still at home and homeschooling (plus my husband working from home a lot) lets us see more of each other that we would if 13 yo dd was in school. I'll also be keeping a close eye on her tiredness levels - if she is getting too tired we'll cut back. Rant over. I agree with your post. In some ways I look like a sporting mother on the outside but I'm definitely not on the inside.

dstb said...

Here I am being wishy-washy.

I am glad that our family life does not revolve around kids sport schedules. On the other hand, I wish my son could be a part of some kind of team. He is on the quiet side, but I think he enjoys the camaraderie a team provides.

When my boys were younger, they played soccer in the town rec league. We did not want to get involved in the more competitive travel league. When they got a little older, we asked them if they wanted to join the travel league and they said no. That was fine with us. We didn't want our lives to revolve around their soccer schedule. For the most part, I think this was a good decision. The drawback is, that when my son got to high school (he went back to public school after 4 years of homeschool) he made the freshman soccer team, but was cut his sophomore and junior year. He really enjoys playing (and being part of a team), but he doesn't have the skills. It killed me to see how disappointed he was, but he survived.

I have friends whose kids are very involved in sports. They complain about all the time they spend driving their kids everywhere, but I also think they think of it as a badge of honor - being able to say that their kid is an athlete. I have to admit to being envious even though I really don't want to be away from home that much. Why am I envious? It bothers me that I am. My son is a good kid. He's polite and gets excellent grades in school and yet I wish he was involved in some activity that I could claim credit for. (Oh sorry, I have to run. I have to drive my exceptionally talented and popular teenager to the state championship game). I must somehow be a failure if he is a good student and person, but not a good athlete.

I really do wish there was a more relaxed alternative for kids who don't play on their school teams, but still enjoy the sport. During the high school years it seems to be all or nothing (my husband plays recreational soccer once a week, but my son can't play because he needs to be 18).

We are a fairly close-knit family and perhaps the fact that we had more time together is the reason why. If so, we made the right choice.


Jen Dunlap said...

There is often so much we think we "need" to give our children. iPhones, iPads, sports, sports camps, clothes, you name it and we "need" it. What our children really need is love, available parents, time to be outside, and time to just be. The other things are bad necessarily but there is a big difference between a "want" and a "need". Not to mention the fact that our kids then grow up with such an entitlement mentality and no work ethic to go along with all the stuff they "need". We are having a no spend month in our house and this has been a big topic of conversation!

Karen said...

I don't know how I missed this post. Sports are definitely crazy time consumers. I didn't do sports either but my brothers did. I spent most of my life at the ball field, football field or basketball court. Then when I was in High School and college I always dated ball players. It is all I knew. I have a really good friend and her son played baseball. 7:00-11:00 PM most days. It is crazy. I am honestly glad Keilee doesn't play sports. That being said I do think sports can be a good thing IF it is done for the right reason, a love for the game. I know so many boys and girls who get to their Senior year and just stop playing anything because they have done it their whole lives because Mom or Dad wanted them to. It's not just sports; it is anything that consumes crazy amounts of time for no payoff.

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