When I was 9 years old, my father took me to sign-up for Little League baseball. A few days after sign-ups, I received a call from the coach who told me what team I was on and when our first practice would be. That was it! No tryouts. No research by my parents on who my teammates would be and how competitive that team would be. No questions concerning how many out-of-town games we would play or whether playing on this team would help me reach the “next level.”
Oh, how times have changed. Youth sports organizations that once were built on child- centered motives like hanging with friends and having fun are now driven by adult-centered motives such as winning and getting scholarships.
It’s obvious that nearly every team in every youth sport is now considered a “select” team. Parents make a choice to have their child play on a certain team for a number of reasons. I am not here to condemn or promote select sports. But I do think it is important that you, as a parent, keep a few things in mind when involving your children in sports at this level.
- Is your child having fun? If the answer is not a definite “Yes,” there’s a really good chance your son or daughter will not want to continue participating in a particular sport at the high school level.
- Are you and your child being told to “specialize” in one sport? If so, it may not be in your child’s best interests. Successful college and professional coaches will rave about the benefits of young athletes playing and competing in multiple sports.
- Is your child showing signs of “burn-out”? If your young athlete is regularly not real excited about going to practice or games, this may be an early sign of burn-out.
- Is the time commitment of playing select sports interfering with your child’s academic progress? If homework is being done in the car on the way to pitching lessons at 8 o’clock at night in the middle of December, you may have a problem.
- Are a lot of “family functions” like Sunday worship, eating meals together and vacations taking a back seat to select sporting events?
One word can summarize a healthy approach to participation in youth sports: “balance.” It’s okay to be passionate about things in our lives, including youth sports. But I think all of us would agree that when our emotional and time commitment to one specific area becomes disproportionate, it opens the door to trouble and problems.
Enjoy all the benefits select sports have to offer. Just remember, as a parent, it’s your responsibility to maintain the proper perspective and balance in your child’s and your family’s life.