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Well-rounded isn’t just for balls

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I have a confession.

When we drive by sports fields on Saturdays and Sundays, and I see dozens of uniformed kids and their parents? I am so glad we aren’t there.

American suburban families who do not participate in soccer, baseball, hockey, t-ball, or any other organized league sports are rare. It’s expected for our weeknights to be claimed by practice time. Weekends are gobbled by game days. Money is consumed by uniforms, special shoes, equipment, fees, team pictures, trophies, dinners, gifts for coaches, and gasoline. For those whose kids are on elite teams, add travel expenses. Sometimes, I wonder if team sports are more about the social opportunities they provide than for the athletic benefit of the kids.

I am greedy with our time, especially the weekends. The logistics would be a nightmare and money isn’t unlimited. Do our kids suffer?

I don’t think so.

They get the team experience by being in a classroom at school. They get it by working together with their five siblings on family projects, chores, and games. They have friends to play with, a yard for romping, bicycles in the garage, and a daddy who is a former soccer coach and volleyball whiz who knows all the cool tricks. They also live in one of the best states for outdoor activities. They beg to visit the mountains to hike trails.

Their rooms aren’t filled with participation trophies, cleats, or shin guards. But three of them have had work shown in art shows over the past several years, and two of them have blue ribbons for first place finishes in poster contests. When the Young Writer’s Conference rolls around, they sign up immediately and work hard on their stories, which are always well received. They treasure the t-shirts and certificates from these endeavors. Our daughter has sold two pieces of art, and she’s only eleven.

They’ve worked hard to earn badges in Girl and Boy Scouts. My oldest is learning the joys of volunteering. Piano and violin have made music for our ears. One kid is writing a movie and has made a storyboard. Our daughter taught herself how to embroider. Well-rounded isn’t just for balls.

I am not a pit-bull Hockey Mom. I am a Sewing Mom. A Short-Story Mom. A Violin Mom. I still wear lipstick, but you’ll never read a story about me in the paper getting into a fistfight with the orchestra leader.

When people find out our kids don’t do team sports, we get two reactions:

1. All kids should play a team sport. Sign them up immediately.
2. Oh, I wish we had never started team sports.

The pressure to participate, mostly from other parents, is enormous.

Before anyone accuses us from keeping our children out of sports against their wishes, you should know that none of them has asked. Ever. They know their friends do it, and that is fine for their friends. Often, their backpacks are jammed with registration papers and flyers for different sports leagues, and I ask if they are interested. They simply aren’t right now.

The future may bring a new outlook, for them and for us. One or more of our children could express an interest in a sport, and we will support them as they investigate if it’s a good fit. Logistics would be mastered, money could be found.

And I’ll slice oranges for the next game.

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Comments
  • comment avatar Terri Cox September 17, 2008

    Our children are grown now, but in our area at that time the pressure was to enter stock shows–in spite of the fact that we did not have the necessary equipment or acreage, much less the thousands of dollars it would have taken to compete successfully.

  • comment avatar Emily September 17, 2008

    I agree with you 100%. My children are young right now, but I look at the parents with older kids complaining about having to bring this kid here and another kid here. The amount of our Earth’s fuel that goes into carting kids from this practice to the other would probably make me sick. Thanks for taking a stand.

  • comment avatar Barbara H. September 17, 2008

    I so agree. Our boys only played occasional years, but I have been so glad none of them wanted to play every year. Organized sports just consume a family’s time and schedule.

    Barbara H. @ Stray Thoughts
    http://barbarah.wordpress.com/

  • comment avatar Heth September 17, 2008

    I’m completely with you. We dabble in the summer time rec leagues of baseball and that’s about it. Our Saturdays are free! Our checking account isn’t completely drained! Our oldest waited until he was in junior high to play football and basketball. He was one of a handful of kids who hadn’t been playing since he was in 3rd grade.

    Your kids sound like fantastic kids. No apologies. Playing in the yard and riding bikes seems like a lost art. Everyone is running around trying to get to the next practice. I’d rather not.

  • comment avatar T September 17, 2008

    I agree that the practice times and money required for team sports these days are pretty excessive, and that’s why I haven’t put any of my kids into soccer, t-ball, etc. However, now that my daughters are 12, I’ve realized they really do need to get some intense, scheduled physical activity, both for their physical health and to help them with stress. That’s why they’re doing swim team now, at a local public pool, through the city rec department — two practices a week, minimal equipment requirements, and low fees.

  • comment avatar Gwendolyn September 17, 2008

    My oldest son did baseball this year for the first time, and it was hectic. I’m waiting for him to decide if he liked it enough to do it again come spring. I’m more about following the interests of my children than putting them in sports just to say that we did.

    http://allsfairinloveandchocolate-gwendolyn.blogspot.com/

  • comment avatar Nini September 17, 2008

    I think that the most important point you touched on was the fact that not only have you not forced them to participate, but that you have also not held them back from doing so. You’ve allowed them to make their own choices.

    How are children supposed to know what they enjoy if they aren’t given the opportunity to figure that out for themselves?

  • comment avatar Veronica Mitchell September 17, 2008

    I wish my mom had shared your attitude. I always hated sports, and I always had to play anyway.

  • comment avatar Valerie September 17, 2008

    I totally agree. I think that if they show an interest that they should be allowed to be involved, but they shouldn’t be forced. They are plenty of things to do, as you so laid out. Also, they get to be kids. Sometimes kids should just be allowed to play, without competing, to just have fun, no pressure fun.

    Great post. Your kids sound great!!

  • comment avatar Dana September 17, 2008

    I have to admit I’ve been in a quagmire about getting my daughter into tumbling classes. She’s in daycare all week long, does she really need a gym class on the weekends too? Don’t we appreciate the weekends for what they are – no rushing to work or appointments, watching college football and taking strolls in the mall?

    On the other hand, it would be a great place to meet other moms and families. We just moved here so we’re trying to figure out how to get out there and meet people.

    It’s an ongoing struggle, but we’ll figure it out. Perhaps we’ll just tumble at home together and let the dogs join in the fun!

  • comment avatar Tonyia September 17, 2008

    My daughter is in Taekwondo. She started around this time last year and is currently a senior blue belt. She has participated in two tournaments and has another this weekend. It does get a bit expensive and sometimes stressful (practice 3 evenings a week, belt testing every other month, a total of 4 tournaments a year, and spring and winter workshops) but it is worth it. We let her choose between dance and twd so we were sure it was something SHE wanted. It gives her additional exercise (she has never been overweight, but hubby and I are) and self confidence. If she decides that she ever wants to join a “team sport” I would support her of course, but I am hoping she leans towards the arts if she takes on any additional activities.

  • comment avatar Amy September 17, 2008

    The majority of the families in our town are obsessed with team sports. It is so competitive that middle school teams are made up exclusively with players who have been on the “travel team” since early elementary. It’s as if they are trying to secure a college scholarship by the time their kids are ten.

    My seven-year-old son has no desire to participate in team sports, and I am incredibly happy about it. I cannot imagine spending every free minute dragging him from one practice or game to another.

    For now, my son enjoys riding his bike, running, swimming, hiking, and just doing things that seven-year-old boys do. He is a healthy, well adjusted child.

    At some point, he may chose to participate in organized sports. My hubby and I will be supportive when/if that day comes. Until then, we will continue to encourage him to live a healthy and active lifestyle by doing things that he enjoys.

  • comment avatar Annie September 17, 2008

    My philosophy on extra-curricular is activities is that I will let my kids try anything they want.

    I think being well-rounded is giving kids the opportunity to try a lot of different activities.

    We did soccer for three years and then they quit asking, so we didn’t do it anymore. My daughter asks to be in cheerleading, so that is what we do for her.

    If they want to sign up for under-water-basket weaving, I will fill out the registration and sign the check.

  • comment avatar Annie September 17, 2008

    P.S. I heart Gretchen, big time.

  • comment avatar Suzanne B September 17, 2008

    Very well said!

    With six kids, I have my pick of everything.

    16yo- ROTC- commanding officer
    14yo- ROTC drill team/artist/writer
    13yo- Sports junkie, only through the schools
    7yo- Ballet/Scouts
    20mo- Mommy and siblings
    8mo- Mommy.. only 🙂

    I love the fact that they are all through schools, I wouldn’t do it otherwise! We live in a rural area as well, so they spend a lot of time learning from one another.

  • comment avatar Mommy Mommy Mommy September 17, 2008

    My children only participate in non-competitive sports through school, which consist of one 1 hour practice a week and one 30 minute to an hour game per week. We have 5 children and luckily we have always had at least 2 children to a team. There are a few The parents sign a conduct code which includes no screaming at your kid’s team or the opposing team. Sure, there are always a few teams in the league that get carried away, but that’s life.
    My children are also involved in drama, choirs, creative writing, art, and church activities. They value all their ribbons, certificates and trophies equally.
    I think it is a bit judgmental and harsh to refer to hockey moms as pit-bulls. I’m sure their are some, but I am sure there are great well rounded hockey moms as well.
    If a child is very interested in sports, eventually competition becomes a necessity. We all cheer for the U.S.A. teams in the Olympics, we need to appreciate the steps it takes to get there.

  • comment avatar tracey September 17, 2008

    Oh yes! I am so HAPPY that I “forgot” to sign my boys up for soccer this fall!! They are now taking a class each: fencing and cooking. AWESOME. 1 night a week for a month or 2 and NO SATURDAY GAMES!!!

    I am giddy over the free time we have to just BE.

    http://tracey-justanothermommyblog.blogspot.com/

  • comment avatar Minnesotamom September 18, 2008

    I would never force my children to participate…it’s entirely up to them. That said, I absolutely treasure my sports experiences. I also treasure my music, writing, art and theatre experiences. I learned a lot of things playing organized sports that I couldn’t have learned playing flute or piano. There is a different kind of team-work and trust involved for performing at a game than there is during a band concert or participating in a group project for school. I am grateful for what I learned and hope that my children can learn similar lessons through whatever medium the Lord chooses to use. Whether that’s basketball, hockey (please, no!), golf, gymnastics, fencing, Girl Scouts, or Speech, I will be there to support and cheer!

  • comment avatar Michelle September 23, 2008

    Without our oldests scholarship to a private Christian University, A would have more than a $1900 loan to pay each year. Much, much more.

    So all those 14 years in organized sports have payed off 😉

  • comment avatar Alice H September 23, 2008

    I think my kids would disown me if I didn’t enroll my son in soccer. After the last game of the season, they both burst into tears.

  • comment avatar Chelsea September 23, 2008

    One of my kids has decided she wants to be a Mathlete. I’m all over that.

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