The Rush to Put Kids in Sports

Updated on September 13, 2012
A.S. asks from Glendora, CA
32 answers

I have several friends who have multiple kids in different sports. It seems like they spend literally 5-6 days of the week at some kind of sporting event/practice etc. I have one close friend who is always so stressed because her 11 year old son lives and breathes baseball so they are doing baseball related activities, year round. She has 2 other kids who also have their own activities but who get dragged to the double and triple headers every Saturday. There are tournaments where they sit for hours on end for days in a row. I let my children do an activity here or there but I do not feel that they always "need" to be involved in some sport. They are all young (8 and under). The oldest has tried flag football, karate, and soccer when he was young. Middle has tried softball, karate and two types of dance. Youngest is attached to my hip and hasn't done any. When I was a kid I didn't start playing sports until I was like 12 and I still was on 2 varsity sports teams in high school. So what is the rush to put all your kids in sports? I feel like I love our family time on the weekend, doing whatever we choose and could never imagine having a schedule like my friend's. She is always complaining about it and then in the same breath says how I really "need" to get my kids into sports. I feel pressure from other moms but at the same time, if a child doesn't specifically WANT to play a sport is it really necessary? Driving to and from sporting events all weekend just doesn't seem like my idea of quality time. I understand doing it in the 11-14 age range so that they "can keep out of trouble" but what is the rush with grade schoolers?

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answers from Detroit on

I didnt really feel like I was rushing into anything. An opportunity came up for my daughter to join a softball team when she was 5. She is now 7, it is a summer activity of her that gets her out and active. We met tons of great people, and I would say all around, it is a great experience.
Now, if my daughter gets obsessed with playing someday, more power to her and I will be right there on the side lines cheering her on.
As I would do with my other two kids when they are old enough.
Like I said, no rush, its fun, we all love it, so why not?

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answers from Dallas on

I have one son who has played baseball since he was 4 and has now played select ball for 3 years (6 seasons). He is also playing football through the school this fall. If we had waited until now (13) to put him in baseball, he would have very little to no hope of playing select. Most kids in select ball have played for years. Most kids in high school baseball have been playing select for years. Unfortunately things have changed so much from years ago. We have always made it a policy to only have one activity at a time until this season. And we let this happen since practice is right before school. I will say the most of my sons friends have come from his outside activities - not school. We spend family time going to games and have made some awesome friends. My youngest hasn't wanted to play anything. We tried baseball but he was not interested at all. (We have other issues going on with him that has made it different also.) We also give him the opportunity to back out of baseball each season but so far he has not wanted to. He loves it and that is worth it to me.

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answers from San Francisco on

Yeah, I know what you mean. My oldest wanted to take dance lessons when she was 4, so I put her in one ballet class per week. But then, she loved it. REALLY loved it. Put 100% of her laser-like focus into it and, because she has the right body type for it as well as the right temperament, she has excelled at it. So... now she is 10 and takes 5 classes per week, plus rehearsals when she's cast in a company production (she takes her dance classes at the dance school of our local ballet company). She loves it, so I'm fine with driving her to her lessons and rehearsals.

The other day, we had a parent meeting with the Artistic Director of the ballet company - ultimately, he's in charge of the dance school as well. Anyway, he said something that stuck with me. First of all, he wants dance and the arts to be a positive, life-affirming experience for the kids. Secondly, he knows that the kids have a lot of demands on their time - whether it's school, homework, family obligations, or dance. However, he noted that often times, it's the girls who are most serious about their dance careers who are the best students BECAUSE they have learned discipline, focus and prioritization. And it's true - the older girls (high school aged) spend around 4 hours per day, 6 days per week, dancing, plus a full course load of classes at school. And yet these girls get straight As, and excel in dance. You know what they say - if you want something done, ask someone who's busy to do it!

So, while I do understand kids being kids, there's something to be said for letting them pursue their passion to the fullest of their capability. It will make them better-rounded people in the long run, and not just in their area of interest.

I do also think it's important for kids to do some kind of physical activity outside of school. They hardly get any PE at school, and they will grow up to be sloth-like individuals if they don't learn to love sports at a younger age. That's not to say they will be GOOD at sports, but there is a sport for everyone, even just at a recreational level.

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answers from St. Louis on

When I read rush to get kids in sports I was thinking three or four year olds. Eleven you have no chance of ever playing varsity in this day and age.

So pretty much you don't get it. When you were a kid no one started until 12, if no one starts till 12 then starting at 12 gives you no disadvantage and that handful of kids that started at 5 have a huge! advantage.

Now you have kids starting in kindergarten and by third grade are playing club ball. If you start at 12 then you are not playing varsity.

Just because it is not your idea of quality time doesn't mean these kids are not having fun. I enjoyed taking my daughter to her soccer games. I was a little upset when she quit in high school but it is her life. She would have never made even the JV team had she not been playing since she was four.

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answers from Washington DC on

You're seeing what I see a lot of around here -- a culture, as much among parents and coaches as among kids, of getting into a sport or sports and "sticking with it" no matter what, even if it means no family time on weekends. It's as if the parents think that just trying a sport for fun is not enough of a commitment; if the child wants to opt out the next season or (heaven forbid!) during the current season, the child must be a slacker who will never be able to commit to anything, ever, the rest of his or her life.

Yeah, it's obnoxious.

While kids do need to learn to stick with things enough to really know what they want, and enough to get over temporary humps and not quit at the first sign of not being perfect....They do not need to lock into one sport at the age of five or six and stay in that sport throughout school. That's how it seems to work now, though. By age 10 or 11, many kids here have no option for just playing soccer for pure fun, for instance; they are expected to be good enough to be on "travel teams" or to get out. (I'm sure some parents would say "Not so" but that's the image it has to the rest of us, fueled by families who say "My kid can't find a way to play soccer for fun instead of in some very competitive league!")

In many activities, by age 11 or 12, a child often is on the border of having to make a deeper commitment to that activity and I understand that for sure -- my child now does four dance classes a week plus (at the moment) two short rehearsals each week for an upcoming show, and that will increase as other shows come up over the school year. But she has made the commitment herself, and is old enough to do so, and -- she has tried other activities so she knows that she loves to dance. But I agree with you that pushing kids into sports that are several nights a week and one full weekend day, all school year long, in elementary grades is just unrealistic and doesn't give the kids any down time or a chance to try other forms of activities.

What kills me in your post is the image of those siblings sitting through hours and hours of baseball. What is the reason for that? "They need to support their brother's interest"? Nonsense. They can come to the critical championship game. They should be off doing their OWN activities and not spending every single Saturday watching his games. One parent can take son to his game and tournaments and the other should be taking the other kids to fulfill their own interests. It always bugs me and I see the same thing here -- siblings forced to attend too many of a sporting sibling's games. It's setting the siblings up for resentment and does not allow them to develop their own interests, take classes they might find fun or enriching. I would bet that families that do that have at least one parent who is so invested in living that sport through the one child that he or she forgets that the other kids might be missing out entirely on developing their own, totally separate interests.

Don't cave to your friend's saying your own kids "need" to be in sports. They may be into sports, sure, but they also might like sports like archery or fencing or golf! Or dance, or art, or theatre. We are so sports-driven now, and so focused JUST on football/soccer/baseball/basketball/softball at the expense of all other sports, too. Let your kids try lots of things. Sounds like you will!

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answers from Denver on

expose your kids early... if they like it, then look at doing it further.

Yes, it has gotten younger and younger and it is not necessarily a good thing. I firmly believe the adults have totally screwed this up!

that said, my oldest is all things baseball. when he was 8 (he started at 5), he had two kids on the team (still a developmental team not an elite team) who had never played - they quit after that one season because they were sooooooo far behind the other kids in skill level that they were completely frustrated. I held the line and we didn't do anything organized until kindergarten, which made us oddballs. we have continued to hold the line and insist on different activities in different seasons (no fall baseball, no winter hitting league); that is not his choice but it is ours as parents because we don't think that much of one sport is good for him. however, my son just paid the price for our attitude in that he was cut from an elite team. not because he wasn't good enough but because we weren't dedicated enough. ****sigh***** we've found a good team that's not quite so competitive so hopefully it will all work out. we filtered the information so he's excited about the change.

my daughter is in soccer. we just quit a team because they had moved to year-round playing. again, we just don't think this is healthy development. we've found a fantastic coach who also thinks two seasons of soccer is plenty at 9 years old but we had to search. I think many parents are afraid to rock that boat - look what happened to my son.

be aware that by waiting, your kids will NOT be able to play most high school sports. their skill levels will simply be too far behind. they may be able to play jay vee, they may be able to do things that don't require "development" such as cross-country, but they will have an extremely slim chance of playing at the varsity level for sports like soccer, baseball, football, basketball. even golf and tennis - most kids start by 8. also be aware that for some sports, the college scouts don't even look at the high school teams - in my state (Colorado), the scouts pretty much only look at club players for soccer.

they should be experimenting with sports by early/mid elementary school to see if there's anything they really like. plus there's so many other lessons that sports teaches that don't happen in school. you just have to navigate the crazy parents and the general craziness that sports has become but it can be well worth it. try the Y or the local rec district rather than club if you can, as they tend to be more low key.

realize that your kids will be absolutely fine without the early sports but there are the trade offs. If you're okay with that, then listen to the crazy parents without a word, laugh inside, and move on. if you really want your kids to have more sports experience in junior high and high school then see if you can find some low-key 6-8 week seasons at the Y. know that sports will not be much of an option at 11-14 other than things like swim, golf, tennis because it moves to the school versus club for many things and if they don't have the skills, they won't play.

Most kids will not play high school much less college or beyond despite what the crazy parents think - they'll be burned out! our goal has always been to do just enough to keep their passion piqued and fed, develop their skills just enough that when they hit high school, they can play at an elite level if they choose. My kids have the talent. we are doing our best to nurture the skills to go with the talent while keeping it sane and giving them a childhood that includes a lot of play and free time. It can be done, it just takes a strong will and a thick skin (really! - my son is cut because of us! - yes, this is a sore point right now)

good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Fargo on

I hear you. My oldest plays hockey. Started when she was 5, it was 6 months of my life year after year. And expensive!! Yes my little one was drug to the rink time after time - she was 2 weeks old in the rink for a tournament. Most tournaments are away so the whole family would go. It got to be so much easier in high school because it was only 3 months, after school and I got my weekends back. Also these coaches are CRAZY!! I hated how serious they were - and all I could think was these are girls, 11 or 12 (or however old) year old girls - on both teams.

I will not let me 7 year do something like hockey that requires 6 months of my life. It too hard. She did try hockey at 5, as that's all she knows . . . but it wasn't for her. She never make it a full practice and ended up crying and usually just sitting and watching. She does play the piano - so I think you need to make sure what their interests are and arent doing it because it what they think they will do.

And I just want to say that I don't agree if they are 12 when they start they won't make Varsity. I've seen girls start at 12, within a couple weeks they looked like everyone else. I know 2 girls that started at 12 that are in private high schools because of their hockey skills.

And not everyone wants to be on Varsity - my daughter much enjoyed JV because that's where she had fun. I'll get bashed I'm sure, but at the end of high school, it's just that the end. And if they go on to college to play (more and more colleges are doing away or greatly reducing girls scholerships due to it not being a big money maker), very, very few go on to the pros.

I do like that it keeps her busy, keeps her out of trouble, teaches her committment, being a team player, etc. I think it about just keeping it all in perspective.

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answers from Kansas City on

We celebrate our family time by being active in sports and watching each other play. Just as your choice is not to it is our choice to do so.

We offered for them to play they accepted at an early age...(sports are a passion in my family) we gave them the option to wait. But they saw me play softball/volleyball weekly since they were babies. They wanted to play so I put them in. Our daughter plays competitive soccer at 7 has for the last year...she wanted to play on an all girls team...only way to do that was to play competitive. She loves it. She knows that if it's too much she can say "too much mom, I need to stop"...and we will (at the end of the season though).

Yes we are gone three nights week to practice...we have four soccer games this weekend. I would not change anything during the Fall and Spring to not be at a field somewhere watching my kids play...

Yes it's tiresome, yes some nights it gets frantic...some nights we "tag team"...literally he's dropping off our daughter as I'm pulling in to stay for practice.

The other two nights a week are reserved for Girl Scouts and one day Boy Scouts....all our "family time" is spent exactly how we want to spend it. Playing a sport or out at a GS activity or off at the zoo, aquarium doing something together. We are together and that is all that matters to me.

You don't want to deal with don't...but don't judge those of us that love this...and love that our kids have something they love to do as well.

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answers from Seattle on

In your family it is not important or fun. In MY family it's a blast! My boys both started playing soccer when they were five. Two days a week practices and then games on Saturdays. When my eldest was younger than that we were always going to my brothers college soccer games. Every Saturday. When my husband plays we go to his practices and games.
We love it. We don't do it to keep the kids out of trouble we do it for the love of the game. The friendships that the kids AND adults have developed. It's FUN! Kids that are "dragged to tournaments" are often running around and playing with other children or playing at the park. I would rather have my kids doing that then vegging out and playing video games.
My boys asked me to play and continue to want to play every season so we do. I am tired when soccer season ends but I wouldn't have it any other way.
ADDED- It's also a GREAT way for my husband to be involved with the children. He is the assistant coach to my older son's team (he's 10) and the coach for my middle son's team (he's 7). I bet that if/when my daughter starts playing he may coach her as well!

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answers from Denver on

There is no rush with my kids but they "want" to play. As far as making my kids go and support eachother during their games I think its good for them. You just make that part of your family time. Go out to eat dinner afterwards. My kids have a ton of friends that are their closest friends on their sports teams that attend different schools. They wouldn't have met if they didn't do these sports. My son does basketball, baseball and flagfootball. My daughter does soccer in the fall and spring and she tried tball. If they want to try something that is cool I let them try it and if they dont like it I dont force them in it. Since P.E. is no longer in the schools as it once was, and recess has been shortened I like that my kids get out at least a few times a week for some physical exercise.

my husband was like that growing up did the pop warner football, the little league baseball and basketball all the time. His parents went and spent tons of time on his activities and I hear all these stories and they dont regret it at all. Nor does he.

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answers from Chicago on

I also understand.

But the "rush" has to do with our society's constant need to progress and improve and do better than those before. Unfortunately, that's the society we live in.... so that is what has become important. You can bang your own drum, if you want. But "doing better" is such a huge deal that some parents hold their kids back in pre-school so that they will be bigger, faster stronger for football. My daughter attended pre-k in the south and she had just turned 4 and was in a class with 6 year olds. They had to revamp the high school curriculum to offer driver's ed to sophomores. It's just a different mindset.

But even in schools that aren't as hard-core as football in Texas...... if you don't put your kid in an activity until they are 11... they are WAY behind. Because they are just learning and everyone else knows the rules and has honed their skills for years. Your kid may be behind enough that they will never be on the A-list or the Varsity squad or whatever is applicable. They might not even make the team if your area has "try outs" instead of the no-cut rule. Now that's fine.... for some kids. But most kids don't have fun unless they can play. And they can't play if they aren't good.

Extra curricular activities do more than just keep kids out of trouble, but they definitely help with that. They have also proven that extra curricular activities are SO helpful to kids in terms of building self-esteem, keeping them physically healthy and improving focus due to increased respiratory function and better sleep at night.
You can't build these if you don't start until they are tweens. You have to build it from when they are little.

You just have to balance. Let them do ONE activity per semester. Let them try a variety and learn what they like. Then around middle school they can pick one and get more involved so that by high school they are proficient.

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answers from Norfolk on

If other people want to run around like chickens with their heads cut off, they are free to do so.
Having a single child makes this a bit easier.
We started our son on taekwondo in the 2nd grade.
In 6th grade he started band.
Between the 2 activities we are busy enough and still have some free weekends to relax or take some small trips.

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answers from Minneapolis on

And more and more kids are suffering from overuse injuries that in some cases force them to quit the sport that they've spent so much time in. Doctors are starting to recommend that kids play a variety of sports instead of focusing on one so early.

When I was in school the same athletes ran track in the fall, then football season happened, then either basketball or wrestling in the winter, then baseball in the spring. There's a lot of sense to that schedule, and very clear dangers to playing the same sport year around.

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answers from Washington DC on

Why not put them in sports? Just because it's not your idea of quality time doesn't mean the kids don't enjoy it and the families don't look at it as quality time. All of my kids started sports at 3/4.

My daughter started dance at 3, and is now in her 4th year as a competitive dancer at 9. She pracitices 4.5 hours per week in class, and countless hours at home. Her best friendships are with her dance friends, as are some of mine with their moms. My daughter also tried soccer, t-ball, gymnastics, Tae Kwon Do, and does still do swimming in the summer.

My older son started flag football at 4. He played for 3 fall seasons and 2 spring seasons before he decided he wanted to do baseball. For him to be able to play baseball this fall, he has to ride with the coach and sometimes I'm not at practice for him. He is 7 and he is LOVING it. He also tried t-ball, Tae Kwon Do, and does basketball in the winter and swimming in the summer.

My youngest son just started his 4th season of flag football and he turned 5 in March, 2 spring seasons under his belt and this is his second fall season. He also tried Tae Kwon Do and does swimming in the summer.

My kids LOVE to be active and it's good for them. So why not? We make it work for us, so why should it bother anyone else what we do with our time? My daughter's dance team keeps us on the road a lot in the spring and early summer, and the whole family normally joins and gets to experience new places. My boys LOVE to watch their older sister dance, she is amazing...and they are her biggest fans. So how is that not quality time? We are all spending time togther, exploring new places, buidling relationships, and being there for each other.

I guess I'm just confused as to why it matters to you what other people do with their kids. I enjoy my kids being active in sports, as do they. If any of my kids started sports at 11 or 12, they'd be at a huge disadvantage for their sports, because so many other people are doing it now.

I am with the club that honestly believes "you" (the general you) are letting your kids down if you don't let them do activities. I was a nanny for a family that had two boys in their mid-30's. They are too tired to get them anywhere and they quit everything they try. They have never done a sport outside of Tae Kwon Do, and even that they quit because it was too much for the parents. It's sad to see because they can't go out to the park and play baseball or basketball with their friends...maybe they don't want to, but at least where I live, being outside is common and kids always start games. If your kid doesn't know how to play, they will be left out. It's sad to see.

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answers from Chicago on

I so hear you. Unless my children show some true brilliance in a sport, I'm keeping them out of them. They are young, so we do classes at the park district, which are more fun and relaxed than speciality shops. Kids are better off playing unorganized sports. In fact, they learn more without all the adult pressure. Im hoping my kids can have a great group of kids on the block to play with.

Life is too short to waste all those hours on something unless it is a true passion. There is so much to do, and I see my brother's girlfriend's 12 year old do nothing but sports.....they are never available for things on the weekend, they live and breath whatever sport he is in given the season. It seems crazy to me. What ever happen to sports just being fun? They've turned kids sports into high pressure events. It's crazy.

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answers from Portland on

Do what you feel is right for you and your family. Let others judge if they have the time for it or the inclination... they don't live your life or walk in your shoes. You have to live in it-- and if you enjoy your current state of activity, then enjoy it without apology.

I understand the feeling that "everyone" is doing this and the pressure (socially) from some other parents to do this. That said, remember that they are making their own choices as to what is important to *their* family. Some families really value sports in a way which others do not. We all have our own family cultures...

My son is 5 and has a small interest in martial arts (we're beginning to look for a program for him which we agree with philosophically). Otherwise, he's not a kid who seems drawn to sports. Lots of his kindergarten buddies were in sports over the summer. We decided to use our time the way we liked with lots of library visits, day adventures exploring fountains, the city's Test Rose Gardens, the zoo, walked all over the place, gardened, cooked together and played and created. We love hiking, tree climbing, and just enjoying all the nature nearby. Some great 'inventions' blossomed from his bedroom. This is what makes him happy and at five, I have a long-range visit of his life-- he's going to have lots of time for sports, an instrument, etc etc etc. Each person has their own interests and inclinations...

Ultimately, we all have to do what's right for us. That said, if someone finds me complaining about all the sports or activities I have chosen for our son to subject us to, please shoot me. There IS such a thing as saying 'no' to some of it, right? We can embrace their passions while still maintaining a sense of balance in the family. I'm not anti-sports or extracurriculars, either. I just believe that for us, a slower pace and following the needs of *all* of our family members is important.

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answers from Canton on

I'm sort of in the same boat as your friend but my kids want to do these activities. I would never dream of pushing my kids to do activities. My oldest (17) wasn't really in to anything. She did a few dance classes when she was younger and then played softbal for a few years starting at age 9. My son on the other hand is a sport lover...He is 8yrs old and we are in a constant rotation of football, basketball and baseball. We have a 2mth break between football and basketball but no break between the other two.
My youngest has done gymnastics, dance and will start swim lessons next week.
Sorry...I'm rambling and not answering your! I guess my thinking on it is to let them do various activities so that they will find what they really love and are good at and then they can concentrate on that when they get a little older.
We spend a lot of time at these activities but I feel we still have a lot of family's just not usually spent at home.

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answers from Seattle on

My sister was in flute lessons, dressage and other equestrianism, skiing (seasonally), swim team, and had private academic lessons. By twelve she qualified for the Junior Olympics in swimming, and had meets every weekend and practice twice a day. She was also in the Youth Symphony. She dreamed of going to the Olympics for dressage and showed promise.

I'm five years younger.

At four I was swimming competitively, sat in on my sister's lessons, played the violin (recitals and lessons) and rode horses (not competitively).

Mostly I was just carted to and from my sister's activities, doing anything that I was allowed to. I was the youngest in any race, and often couldn't get into events because of my age, but I had a lot of fun anyways.

Later on it became too much. I lived in my sister's shadow (this is a very one sided perspective and is only one piece of a much more complex story) and my sister burned out. She quit everything but riding. Wanting to do everything that my sister did, I quit too and horses were off limits to me (according to my sister whom I listened to) because they were "her thing". Ha ha, OLD family history here.

My own children look forward to their activity all week long. They are in swim lessons and love it. If I could afford to have them doing more, I would. Not my youngest - she needs a lot of down time. I'd have her swimming twice a week instead of one. My eldest would do well to have something every day - it's just her personality and she doesn't like to be still. She's much happier the more we have going on.

It's going to have to be an ongoing negotiation. Time, money, their needs, my needs, my husband's needs, our needs as a family. We'll just have to play it by ear.

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answers from Phoenix on

I wonder the same thing. If a kid is a prodigy, he's a prodigy and will go on to pro sports. If he's just an average kid playing average ball because his parents think he should be scheduled to death, then he's probably not going to be a MLB ball player when he grows up.

Honestly, I think a lot of parents do it to keep up with the Joneses, or because they don't want to deal with their kids. I think it's adult peer pressure. I guess not having your kid in a million and one activities makes you a bad parent (snicker!). I think a lot of parents also live vicariously through their kids via sports & activities.

What we have now are kids that are so overscheduled they're not having a child hood. It's unfortunate. It's all about moderation. DD has tried soccer, swimming & brazilian jiu jitsu and is not currently doing anything, and I'm fine with that. We will let her choose one activity now that we're well into the school year & she's doing well & the homework is not too much.

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answers from San Francisco on

Be confident in your own choices. I know it can be hard when it seems like "everyone" is doing it but believe me, they are not! Some families thrive on being busy and out and about and others, not so much.
Besides, moms who try to pressure other moms into doing what they are doing are usually insecure in their own choices, OR they really hate being at home all weekend, you know? To each their own!
ETA: and of course the bottom line is it should be what your kids want to do, THEY are the ones putting in the hard work, not you (well except for all the driving around lol!) When your kids love it then YOU love it, you can't help yourself :)

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answers from Sacramento on

I didn't like the idea of dragging my kids from thing to thing when they were little... like 3 and 4 or even 5. When they reached about 6 though, they really started WANTING to participate in other activities. And I find when they have a little more to do during the week they manage their time differently and better. We still have only about 2 things at a time. Girl/Boy Scouts and a
sport or other recreational activity.

I agree with you... the idea of sitting at baseball games or soccer games all weekend all season wears me out. I think people like for their kids to have an advantage in sports by starting them early, which I think can be ok if the kid is having fun and your lifestyle supports it.

I think that there is time for a child to be a child, and there is also time for them to learn what they like to do and excel at it. I don't believe that if you don't start soccer at age 2 you'll never be a great soccer player.

Do what's best for your family and kids and don't worry about your over scheduled friend.

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answers from New York on

I get where you're coming from. My kids do some stuff but it varies and is casual. Like you, I didn't start anything "seriously" until I was older and I caught up to other kids very quickly and then did very very well in one sport. So I think kids can catch up and avoid getting burned out. I'm interested to see other answers though bc I wonder if I'm kidding myself and unless you dedicate yourself from a young age, you'll never be varsity caliber at any sport. I do keep one or two things going though for exercise given as Sarah said, there's less PE in school.

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answers from Boston on

This will change as your kids get older. With the 10 and over crowd, sports are pretty serious. There are some sports where a kid can reasonably expect to pick it up in middle school and possibly play at the high school level. Things like cross country, track, field hockey, volleyball etc. seem to be a good fit for experienced and novice participants alike. Of course there are also some very athletic kids who can play anything well with no introduction to it. And there are sports like football where the coaches can make use of single-skill kids (kickers, or the "you can't teach size" roles like line backers). But for the many sports, not starting by age 10 can put a kid at a disadvantage for a long time. For example, my kids play hockey. My oldest started at age 10 and was literally 5 years behind his peers. He has played for 4 years and is still middle of the pack at best and will stay on a B/C level or JV team all through high school. That's fine for him, but I can see a more competitive child being frustrated with that. At age 14 he is developing an interest in other things like soccer, but could never try out for the high school team because he's competing for a spot against kids who have been playing at a very high level for many years. Baseball in my town is the same way - you can't start swinging a bat at 14 and expect to get on a team here. My SD, also 14, has finally expressed a passing interest in team sports (she's literally never played on a team, ever) and we had to give her the reality check that you don't just go from never playing in a soccer game, ever (and not even knowing how to play) to trying out for the high school team. So the reality is that both of my kids are shut out of some sports that they are finally showing an interest in because they didn't start early enough. It's no big deal because there are other things they can do (like track - our team takes everyone) but for a kid who is competitive, that early exposure can really help.

At the end of the day, it's a function of age and interest. Your oldest will notice all of his peers playing sports all the time and will very likely develop an interest in something that IS time consuming. And you'll go along with it, because that's what parents do. And your youngers will pick up on it and want to do it to, and before you know it you'll be at a practice or game almost every night of the week. We were pretty low-key about it until my oldest was 10 and since then it's been pretty much a sport a day during the school year.

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answers from Washington DC on

pffffft. some kids are sports nuts and thrive on that sort of schedule. most kids have some sort of activity (not necessarily a 'sport') that they should be encouraged to pursue.
very few kids should have every single day filled to the brim with extracurricular activities. it's not good for the kids or the parents or the family unit.
don't succumb to the pressure!

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answers from San Diego on

Well, I guess I might probably be the person that you are talking about, but my kid's LOVE sports!! My daughter is running X-Country during the high school season, swims on the swim team during that season and does Jr. Life Guard during the summer. She wanted to do water polo as well but it's the same season as x-country and realized she had to make a choice. My son started soccer around 3/4 and loved iand excelled in it. He played until 3 years ago when I gave into his begging to let him play football. Now he plays football during the season and wrestles the rest of the year. He just started wrestling in December and is really good at it, but is at a disadvantage because lots of kid's have been wrestling for longer and they are better then him.
We really listened to our kid's and if they didn't want the sport, we didn't make them do it. Both kid's tried T-ball when they were little, and hated it.
Yes, our weekends are rushing to meets, but we are a family and we are supporting each child's interests. My kid's are each other's biggest fans, and they brag about their siblings strengths, and are there to support them when it didn't go the way we liked.
In our case, sports is busy, but I would do it again in order to see my kid's run, play, and have fun!!

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answers from Dallas on

I felt the same way when my kids were little. Then my oldest hit 8ish and developed a love for soccer. It became apparent very quickly that if he wanted to develop his skills and play on a competitive level, eventually playing in HS, we would need to move him to academy soccer. Year round play, 2+ practices a week, tournaments - whole 9 yards. 3 years later we're still doing it because he loves it and it's important to him. He's learning how to manage his time, how to be a leader (wants to be team captain), how to stand up for himself while functioning within a group (team). My daughter plays too (8), although not at the level of her brother because she hasn't shown the desire yet.

Yes, our lives tend to revolve around soccer, but that doesn't mean there is no family time or quality time. We have great conversations with the kids in the car. We go do fun things as a family in between games on tournament weekends.

Sports today aren't like sports when you were a kid. They are competitive MUCH younger and if you wait to put your kid in competitive sports until they are 12 they will be too far behind to be able to compete. Do I like it or approve? Not really, I wish it started later for many reasons, but the reality is if you want your kid to be competitive in a sport you have to start younger these days.

ETA - YEA THAT to Laura's answer. Our whole family has a blast at soccer events. We are friends with the parents & siblings, both kids love playing with their soccer friends, we really get so much more than just soccer out of it. Oh, and I've never "sat on my rump" at a soccer game. I'm talking to my friends, watching my daughter do cheers for her brother's team, cheered, coached, or simply just walked around if the action gets a little too tense, lol.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I am totally with you! ;-) Mine are only 3 & 1 now though. But I've already had friends asking when I'm going to put them in gymnastics class & tball, etc. I'm dreading the future years, lol. To make it worse, I sense we'll have some husband-wife disagreements about sports in the coming years too, as my hubby has basically said summers should be devoted to sports, you don't 'take a weekend off' to go camping, etc. Umm, if that's the case, noooo. I relish family time, summer events with family/cousins, I will have a hard time justifying devoting nearly every weekend to a ten year olds sports, eek! Wish it were more similar to when we were kids!



answers from Chicago on

Well, we have four under 7 and do a TON of activities. Not so much sport teams (only tried t-ball), but music, gymnastics, swimming, archery, etc. We have between 1 and 3 activities a day, in addition to preschool and regular school. It's rush, rush, but it's also really hard to spend hours at home...that turns into chaos and mess too quickly! I really enjoy this stage when they can try everything and see their eyes light up. And I admit I was very upset my 3-year-old didn't participate in gymnastics, so I pulled him out of it. My main thing is EXERCISE. Around here in winter, it's tough! Gymnastics is a wonderful indoor outlet for energy. But, we do what we can as long as the child isn't totally opposed.



answers from Los Angeles on

My son just turned 4 and has been asking to play baseball already. I would much rather have him playing a sport than sitting in front of the TV all day. It's not just to keep them out of trouble. It's exercise. It's social. It teaches them teamwork, to win AND lose with grace, it teaches them about commitments and confindence.

Obviously, I see the many benefits of participating in sports, but if they don't want to, there are other outlets. If other moms are pressuring you, just tell them sports are not a priority in your family right now.



answers from Los Angeles on

Waiting to start until they are 11-14 is hard because it gets very competitive by that age. If your kids have no experience prior to age 11, they aren't going to be able to keep up with the other kids who have been playing for years. They won't have the same skill or knowledge level. In baseball, it will be very hard for them to hit off the pitchers who throw full speed fastballs if they haven't had the chance to build up to it.

If your kids don't want to play, don't put them in. It is a big time commitment and it should be something that makes them happy. But I do think kids should start playing by about age 7-8 at the latest if you want them to have a chance at really getting good and feeling like they can compete with their peers.

We started my son in both soccer and baseball at age 4 because he absolutely loves them. He is so happy when he's out there playing and he wants to play all the time at home, too.


answers from Milwaukee on

I think they try different things when young and then when older they decide on something. Yours may decide to be on a baseball team in a couple of years and you will keep a similar schedule.

Mine are all under 8 too and have tried various things. We found my oldest to be not be good at team sports and does better at things like snowboarding and skateboarding. My daughter tried ballet but decided to try gymnastics this year instead. My youngest is 3 and is in a soccer starter class. One time per week, with his dad, meeting and working with other kids. I think it's great. It's the over scheduling that gets tough.



answers from Omaha on

My son turned 5 in July he has played 2 seasons of coach pitch baseball and is now in tackle football. He loves it! I am happy that he does because we love to watch him. Is it a commitment yes but one I am happy to commit to. It keeps him active and now kids start so early so if you want your child to have any chance when the get to jr. high or high school you have to start them early. It also teaches them at an early age how to be a team player, how to listen and respect their coach, and how to interact with other kids. I enjoy meeting parents I may not have met. We enjoy it as a family because whatever the sport is we can practice at home was as a family.

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