Are Kids’ Sports Teams Worth It?

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. I know a bunch of you are going to want to throw tomatoes at me when you’re finished reading this column, so I’m prepared.

Scared of Reaction

I don’t know why I write stuff that I know will get people riled up, but I guess I was all riled up myself on Monday when we wrote this, because we’ve had snow like you wouldn’t believe here. The major highways have been closed. There have been tons of accidents. And still people are driving their kids to sports tournaments. It just seemed so unsafe to me, and so I went off on a tangent.

I know that there are good things about team sports, but I do sometimes wonder if it’s all worth it. I’ve written about the usefulness of some of these extracurricular sports before. But believe me, I know some families who balance it all wonderfully.

If that’s you, I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m not saying you’re a bad parent. Please believe me. But I still wonder, when I look at the time and money commitment (let alone the safety issues in weather like we’ve been having) if it’s always a good idea.

So I wrote this column.

You can commence throwing tomatoes now.

are kids sports worth itI’m the wrong one to write a column called “Are Sports Teams Worth It?”, because I was the kid who hyperventilated whenever we played soccer in gym class. I hated team sports; other people would be looking at me and relying on me.

So when I see parents in my social circle spending most weekends on the road to sports tournaments, and forking over huge amounts of cash in the process, I just don’t get it. It’s almost like I’m watching a foreign movie without subtitles. It doesn’t compute.

Once upon a time, of course, sports were easy.

In the 1950s, my father-in-law and his friends would lace up their skates on a pond and play hockey all day. Soccer was just kicking a ball around in the local field. But now everything is so regimented and expensive and complicated. And instead of being just a fun, informal thing, it becomes a Very Big Deal.

Certainly hockey is the Canadian birthright, and one shouldn’t question it, but have you ever done the math? If you have your child in a hockey league, it can easily cost $3000 a year per child. There’s the hockey equipment and the team fees, which can often be $1000. But the real kicker comes with all the travel. Driving to games, paying for hotels, paying for food and grabbing a drink while you’re out really adds up. Even a relatively cheap sport, like soccer, can run into several thousand if the kids have to go out of town for games. Then, to add to the indignity, the clubs spend their lives fundraising, and as a parent you’re stuck selling 100 chocolate almond bars or bags of Florida oranges to everyone you work with.

But it’s not just the cost. It’s the time.

I see families with two or more kids on different teams, and almost every weekend they’re heading out somewhere, often separately. Practices and games eat up multiple nights a week. When do you have dinner as a family? When do you do homework? When do you just relax?

I was at a friend’s fiftieth birthday recently where a bunch of grandmas sat around the table comparing stories. One shared about her daughter and son-in-law’s schedule with three boys in hockey. She was flabbergasted at how much money they were spending (they’re just racking up debt, she said), and how their lives were so chaotic. I asked her, “When do the parents get any time together alone?” “They don’t,” she chuckled ruefully.

Then last weekend the skies opened up and dumped so much snow on my community that I can hardly see over our snowbanks. Police warned motorists to stay off the roads. There were over 1700 collisions in Ontario on Saturday alone. And yet I know of several local sports teams where parents drove their kids to out-of-town tournaments–and all the kids showed up. Facebook was littered with, “It was a really stressful drive, but we made it!”

Really? Parents risked their children’s lives in the worst weather we’ve had all year, with highway closures and whiteouts, just for a game? And the organizers didn’t cancel? I can understand heading out if your job depended on it, or if it was a major life event.

But perhaps we’re taking this too seriously.

That’s the only explanation I have. I know parents who do a great job with sports, and they love it, and the kids are thriving. It certainly can be done. But when I look at the financial outlay, and the time commitment, and the fact that you have so little time at home, I just find it hard to think it’s worth the cost. Maybe I should relinquish my Canadian citizenship for even daring to suggest it, but I don’t get it. Am I the only one?

Comments

  1. Renee Greaner says:

    I totally agree. When my youngest son was in a little league baseball team he was sick one day and couldn’t make it to the game. I called the coach and told him he was sick with a fever and wouldn’t be there. The coach had the audacity to to tell me I had no idea what team commitment was! I told him he had no idea what being a parent was and we would no longer be playing on his team. I’m all for having fun, but unless my kids are making the kind of $ like the Pros, let’s keep it at fun!

  2. No tomatoes to throw here – for one thing they’re way too expensive to waste this time of year! ;)

    But really?
    Ask a kid if their organized sports time counts as “play” or “work” and nearly all of them will say it’s not play. They may enjoy it, but it’s not play.
    And kids need play time to learn. Play is, or at least should be, voluntary. If you aren’t allowed to stop in the middle of the game because you’ve had enough, it’s not play. If you aren’t allowed to negotiate different rules to suit the terrain, skill levels, or mood, it’s not play. If the grown ups are in charge and the kids are just doing as they’re told, it’s not play.

    My own kids do swimming lessons, so that they can play safely around water in the summer – other than that, we don’t do organized sports. We go for hikes or bike-hikes as a family. We go swimming, or head to the park with a ball to kick around, or skip rope, or toss a ball around.

    Apparently I have fairly strong feelings on this one too!!

  3. I totally agree too! We have 3 kids and I just can’t imagine if they were all heavily involved in different sports. We can’t afford it but even if we could, there are all the other reasons that we don’t; decreased family time and increased busy-ness. I am thankful my husband isn’t into hockey, so my son isn’t pressured to play (and he hasn’t asked to play either, he’s happy with the other activities he’s doing).

    I look for easy, once a week sports/activities where sometimes 2 or even all 3 of them can take lessons at the same time period. Or we have signed up for summer week-long sports day camps or art classes- so they get a bunch of it all at once.

    Thanks for sharing, we need to hear that just because others are doing it, doesn’t mean we have to!

  4. Jasmyn Wilson says:

    Sheila. I do not disagree at all with you. When I was a kid in the 80s, I was involved in T-ball, then softball. (not expensive sports by any means) but most of my time was spent outside playing. Today I see kids in so many sports and the expense of it all. Im all for kids having fun any playing games/sports, but when it gets too serious, then it loses. More importantly, the kids lose. 99.9% of the kids playing will not ever play professionally or on the olympics either. Let kids be kids! I have a both a 3 and 2 year old and it worries me what will come ahead and what will be expected.

  5. You are not alone, I am dismayed by the priority that parents place on organized sports and organized activities in general.

    If you really look at how parents spend their time, they are more interested in organized sports than they are in their faith, family time, and even the education of their children. Our values are reflected in how we spend our time, money, and talents and the extraordinary amount of all of those that we devote to organized sports clearly indicates that it must meet some extraordinary passion in our lives. My basic problem with organized sports is balance. A good life is a balanced life where you spend time time eating/talking AT THE DINNER TABLE, praying, playing, reading, or just the proverbial “time alone”. I don’t see much room for balance in the lives of families with multiple organized sports and activities.

    Having said all that, I do recognize that sports are a natural attraction for many kids. Although sometimes their parents are the ones pushing it, many times it is the parent who has to limit the amount of time that the child spends on their sport. People need meaning in their lives and many kids apparently find great meaning in their sports and organized activities. I know personally watching my youngest daughter’s commitment to dance.

  6. But didn’t you know that these kids are going to play in the NHL when they are older and so the parents will get their money back? (Kidding, of course). We’ve had friends leave wedding receptions, and interrupt their family vacations for the sake of hockey. I don’t get it either!
    Leanne recently posted…Investing in your family with a vacationMy Profile

  7. Texas Mom says:

    Wow, your column struck me hard today.

    I’ll tell you why many families do it. Because when families like mine decide to stop putting a child on teams that have tournaments all weekend, so that we can have worship time and family time on weekends, the kid loses ground. When you decide not to spend money every week on hitting and pitching lessons like other families do, your kid loses ground. When you don’t show up for a team event so you can keep your family safe or together for some event, the coach takes note and your kid loses ground. And then when he’s been playing baseball since 4 1/2 years old and absolutely loves the game and really, really wants to make the high school team, he doesn’t – two years in a row. Even when he took baseball as a high school class for 1 1/2 years and played league baseball every chance he got.

    Yep, I think that’s why a lot parents do it. Because we’re all in this pressure cooker, competing with each other, one-upping each other, and you hate being the parent who let your kid down because you didn’t do everything you could so he could play the game he loves.

    Looking back, I don’t know that I would change those major decisions, but it was really tough to hear my 16-year-old pray before a family meal, “Please, God, let me just make the first cut,” and then come home a couple of days later with the news that he’d never play for his high school. And that, I don’t get. Why must a high schooler be at a minor league baseball level just to play with his peers? Aren’t we supposed to be about education and opportunities?

    Still, I think that’s why a lot of parents do it. Even if and when they agree it’s a little crazy.

    • Your story is a great witness and I think you hit the nail on the head.

      Parents often have a sense that it’s crazy but they cannot bring themselves to end the hopes/dreams/delusions of their kids, coaches, and other parents on the team. You have to be extremely focused and hyper-competitive to be good enough to play organized sports in high school in most densely populated areas. Every parent seems to think that their kid might be good enough to get a college sports scholarship and probably about 1/5 of those parents is right. Too bad for the other 4/5 and their kids.

      • I think you have it right, at least for the families that are intentional about it. I also think it’s easy to get caught up in the rat race without even realizing it. After all, everyone is doing it — and not just with sports. It’s what you do when you want the “best” for your kids. You have to maximize their potential so they can be all they can be. But at what cost? Ultimately it is a gamble, (and as a few people pointed out, the odds aren’t good). Hopefully our choices are conscious and well thought out. A post like this one makes us stop and think. Thanks, Sheila.

    • Same story for us but it’s Volleyball here in Texas. I swore I would NEVER have my child play club level. Yes, I ate those words. We aren’t looking for college scholarships, just to play on her high school team. I will amend this….her skills last year significantly improved during “club” season than in the time she was on her junior high team. She is a far better volleyball player (which is her favorite activity) due to club. But I so wish society hasn’t created this situation to be in. Prayers for Amanda in Texas come August please!

  8. I have been on both sides of this. I’ve had 3 of my daughters in basketball at the same time and the schedule was crazy. And many times it has turned out to be a bad experience for my daughters. It’s way too competitive even for 8, 10 and 12 year olds. It was awful!!
    Now we live in a new city and it’s $130 per child to sign them up for baseball! This is just way too much! If I signed up all 3 of my youngest kids that would be $390!! And like you said that’s not including the uniforms and everything else. Ugh!! Not a fun situation at all. More stress I think than anything. I think we will just go play catch and hit the ball around at the park and save money and have some great family time. <3

  9. I totally agree. I don’t have any kids, but I worry about what my fiance and I will do when we do have kids (especially if they are boys). I grew up in a home where sports were what they were intended to be: programs to have fun and learn teamwork. We did a “bargain” club volleyball team that was less commitment and ALOT less money than most of the other more competitive teams in our area. My fiance was a wrestler in highschool, though, and his parents made it his entire life, to the extent that he was doing extremely unhealthy and harmful things jsut to get an edge. He was also permitted to essentially blow off school to focus on wrestling, which killed any chance of him getting a college scholarship (and resulted in him not goign to college). If we have sons I am seriously considering refusing to let them wrestle because I am terrified the cycle will repeat itself.

  10. Another guy weighing in here. I am also torn on this issue. I see the great benefit in sports, especially organized sports. It teaches discipline and self-motivation, team attitude vs. selfish attitude, etc…. However, I do agree that it has become an idol for many and can be totally illogical in respect to safety and priorities. Why can’t adults, who are supposed to be more mature and wise, see the danger in sending multiple cars out in weather like we are having lately just for a game. That is idiotic! Just recently I had a family member involved in a ‘fender bender’ because she had to get to practice (Yes PRACTICE!). They were having blizzard conditions, she is an inexperience driver, the authorities said stay off the roads, but her coach said if anyone missed, they would lose playing time! So the young person was pitted against their own judgement, the parents advice and her coach. I think we as adults need to stand up and say NO! Whether we are a parent, a coach or whatever. No ones life is worth the risk just to play a game.

  11. Sheila,
    For many years, I was in agreement with your stance on kids’ sports. But no longer! And here’s why…

    My children are thriving in a whole new way now that we have them in organized sports.

    First, there’s the whole “belonging” aspect – they are part of a team, an essential part. They have a special community unique to each of them.

    Second, there’s the confidence aspect – doing your best, trying your hardest, and having your coaches recognize that in you is so good for them! Maybe this changes at older or more competetive levels, but right now I see my children being praised and rewarded for hard work (regardless of whether they’re the “best”).

    Third, there’s the responsibility aspect – what they do, how they play, their overall attitude…all these things impact the rest of the team. Yes, it’s the same in a family. However, over time, family members sometimes forget that their actions impact others. Being part of teams, my kids are re-learning that.

    Fourth, we’re finding that the sports are encouraging more family togetherness, not less. Sure, sometimes we need to split up to get different kids to their games. But many times we can all go together – all 7 of us. And we get to cheer on a family member and his/her team together! It’s fun!!!

    I agree that some families can get too immersed. They can spend too much time, too much money, and become fractured. But I believe that a family can choose differently. We recently allowed our daughter to miss a hockey game for her friend’s birthday sleepover – we let her make the decision and supported her in it. Because kids are just kids, and at the Novice level we’re not crushing her Olympic career (ha! lol) by missing one game. We also allowed our son to miss soccer practice…and still play at the game that week. Our family was cheering on his sister at her hockey game, and we chose to be together as a family.

    As for cost, there were many years that we couldn’t afford organized sports when our kids were younger. They are expensive. There are many things families do that cost a lot of money – vacations, birthday parties, family outings, etc. Tough choice have to be made, depending on your priorites. Because we chose sports this year, we said no to big birthday parties and we chose our family outings based on which Groupon we could find. If our kids want treats at arenas and wherever, they need to bring their own money. When you look at the dollars based on hours of playing (specifically with minor hockey), it is actually one of the cheapest sports out there…at least until they’re 12 or so. Even when you include travel and hotel costs for out-of-town tournaments and equipment (which you can purchase used when they’re younger and not so stinky), hockey costs maybe $5 per hour. My daughter who’s in cheer, however – $356 for 12 lessons. Music lessons – $23 per HALF hour!!!

    I know that was long. But the gist is this… All things in moderation. Organized sports have their place. They do a lot of good. The problem comes in when parents get their perspective skewed. If you think your child will be the next Wayne Gretzky, and you push him, and you stress him and yourselves out, and you spare no cost, and you allow no breaks or rests or misses, that’s when they can do more harm than good. For now, for our family, organized sports are doing very, very good things!

    :)
    E. Tyler Rowan recently posted…A Fresh Start for 2014My Profile

    • I’m glad at least one sports parent replied! I’m not finishing the rest but wanted to say thank you. Being part of a sports family for the last ten years has been the most wonderful experience for us. Soccer has been my child’s passion and when he decided to quit the cheap recreation team because he wanted a coach that he knew would make him a better player, I had no reservations on putting more money up for a league that paid their coaches and trainers. Since we homeschool, family time is often during the day. When we travel, my dad travels with us. The bonding time found on the road cannot be replaced.

      When my son and I traveled ten hours away last fall to a national tournament, we had the best time. The binding that takes place with my daughter while he is at practice cannot be replaced. Neither is the bonding with him while she is in dance. Neither is that between the two of them when they talk about his games and the dance competitions he attends. Who am I to discourage my kids from their passions? They will quit when they decide it is time. I love to watch her dance and I love to wstch him play. It shouldn’t be anyone’s business really, how much of our own money we pay for these activities. It’s our money, after all. If you don’t want to pay it, don’t… but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to pay for it (or not).

      Making unwise decisions such as driving in a blizzard should not be used as a case against sports families, that’s not about the sports life, that is making unwise decisions. Some of us livewhere it never snows and practices are cancelled because of rain ;)

  12. Ashley W. says:

    That is exactly why I LOVE the classes offered through our city’s Parks & Rec department. The cost is low, it’s not competitive and the sessions are short, so when my daughter is tired of ballet or gymnastics (or whatever the flavor of the month is for her) after 6 weeks it doesn’t matter because the class is over anyway!
    I’m with you…it just doesn’t make sense to me.

  13. This is a timely post as I am recovering from a car accident on the way to a hockey game. Sports can be great if your kids enjoy the sport. My advice is do not play for a coach with whom you are philosophically opposed. Keep in mind that it is just youth sports and missing a game for family is fine. If the coach doesn’t approve you are on the wrong team.
    Family time is forever. Youth sports are for kids to develop coordination teamwork and friendship .

  14. I agree, but also make exceptions for young boys/men especially in urban areas. Where also are they supposed to get rid of all the energy and testastrone. They can’t go outside and play because our cities are corrupt. You don’t want them playing video games. And we need men in the next generation. But yes, all in all, folks put way too much time, money and energy into youth sports.

  15. I loved this column, Sheila!

    I have been recently meditating on this article, not a Christian one, mind you:
    http://aeon.co/magazine/being-human/children-today-are-suffering-a-severe-deficit-of-play/

    Children are suffering because of the lack of free play time. Suffering. It’s serious.

    Children NEED to play without an adult telling them what to do and “helping” them solve problems. Their mental health is at stake. It’s not just that “Oh, they can play for a while and then we will do important stuff that will help them develop healthy self esteem and social skills and creativity”. No, they need to have lots and lots of time for social play in order for them to have social skills and creativity and good self esteem.

    If we love our kids we need to give them time to play freely with friends. Scary? Maybe for parents of today…but you see the results, right?

    I am in the middle of parenting four little kids and we are finding our way through hobbies and free play time. Our kids go to piano lessons and our daughter might pick up gymnastics again…but only if we will all enjoy it too (so far we have, just having a little break from it). No way it will become a monster we need to feed and sacrifice our family for. Our time is too short for that.

  16. I totally agree with E. Tyler Rowan. My daughter plays ringette and my son is in drama. Yes, there are plenty of busy times, but we all enjoy the games and presentations. They’ve made great friends, maybe lifelong friends. We’ve made great friends. And we are actively involved with people who don’t know the Lord. The time, energy and expense has been totally worth it! I would do it all again in a heartbeat!

  17. Sorry to interrupt. Can I have these posts/blogs sent to another/second e mail address?? I’d love to share.
    Please advise.

    • Hi Ed, anyone can sign up to receive them right here: http://eepurl.com/z0VFn So you can just enter the email address that you want the posts to come to. There’s lots of options on how frequently you want things sent to you if you head on over to the link!

      Hope that answers your question!

  18. A Coach's Wife says:

    Wow… first, I want to say WAY TO GO for having the guts to say so.

    My husband is a volleyball coach and right now is the JO season (Junior Olympics – basically off-season club ball). He is coaching two teams… has practice 3 nights/week and tournaments on weekends. For a stretch of 7 weeks, he will be gone both Sat & Sun plus those 3 nights/week. In the month of January, schools closed due to bitterly dangerous temps – but on those evenings, this club did not cancel practice. I was livid. The club’s policy is that it is a parent’s choice to have the child at practice or not – with no impact on playing time. My “not-so-nice” comment to my husband was, “Oh, but it’s ok to put the coach – who has a family – in treacherous conditions? I can’t keep you home to keep you safe…”

    So why does he coach? He’s good at it and we need the income. But I wrestle SO much with all the very things that you talk about. PLUS… I wish parents would think a little harder before they do and say the things they do to a coach – it’s unbelievable how rude, mean and inconsiderate parents can be… horrific examples for the teenagers watching them, I must say. I wish parents would understand the time commitment that a coach makes to be there investing in their child’s life, and take a moment to appreciate that instead of criticizing everything that doesn’t make their child “feel good”. I wish parents would understand that there is a family behind that coach sacrificing so that he/she can be there helping their child in that sport – and understand if a coach may have to miss something, be a little late to an event, or not “hang out” with the team so that he can take care of his own family.

    Ok, so rant over… I applaud you for asking the tough question. I wonder if being the coach is worth it on top of wondering why in the world parents put what they do into it. We have not been able to afford to put our son into the expensive travel team opportunities for baseball. He’s a good player – and I’ve wrestled with feeling like I’ve failed him in not giving him the chance to play on better teams. But… that is so like the enemy to tempt me to focus on the temporary. Our son has been able to enjoy baseball on city league level teams and he may still get to play in college at a D3 level, but that isn’t driving his decisions. I’m really, really glad that baseball does not dictate his life. He loves the Lord and desires to serve Him above all. No amount of money spent on an organized sport can buy that eternal gift.

    Thanks again for the guts to put it out there – and if nothing else, prompt people to answer the question for their own family! :)

  19. I think in moderation kids sports can be OK. I have one ice skating now but it is 1 one hour lesson a week. Another in 4h for horses…..1 two hour meeting a week for 12 weeks plus 3 optional shows.
    I think kids need lots of free play time and down time but inoderation things like a rec league with a once or twice a week commitment for a limited amount of time can be good for kids. Rec leagues are also much less costly.

  20. From the perspective of a girl who LOVED team sports as a child and in to high school and college, I’m all for it. Having said that, I think it can definitely be a huge time and money consumer if you allow it to be. You have to guide your children to find the right balance. I wish I had not allowed sports to gobble up my time and energy to the exclusion of developing my other talents (for me it was music.)

  21. I agree. Which is unfortunate for me since my father in law is a sports writer, and finds being in sports vital. So vital in a kids life that when he visited in the hospital for the first time once or daughter was born, with in ten mins, “so for the important question, what three sports will she play in high school?” To him, it’s the best way to learn all sorts of important life skills, he has her best interests at heart. But THREE? He even made a recommendations. I JUST had a baby, can’t we just oooo and ahhh and then I’d like to rest please!

  22. Oh Sheila, I’m so WITH YOU. Though it doesn’t have to be like that

    We had our three boys in soccer when they were younger. And believe me, if you have three boys within five years of each other, you also might be looking for an outlet for their energy!

    In our community there are enough kids interested in soccer to support a large “recreational” league. That meant the boys were all on neighborhood-based teams, so practices were close to home. The cost was reasonable (about $60 per kid, per season), and the gear is not much – cleats and shin-guards that they can hand down. We also have a huge complex of soccer fields, so ALL the rec-league games were on one day (Saturday), at the same location. And the league (fall and spring) ran for eight weeks.

    That felt really do-able. Sure it was hectic, but it was only eight weeks. And being homeschoolers with a self-employed dad, we could all have a big lunch together if dinner was disrupted by the practice schedule (volunteer coaches holding practices after work). It was a good thing for a while…

    But as they got older the competition level ratcheted up. (Talk about some frenzied PARENTS. Ugh.) Our boys were “encouraged” to try out for the more competitive leagues, which cost a lot of money and have to travel to games on weekends. We declined. None of our boys are playing high school sports. Fortunately (or maybe because of our family culture) that’s not important to us.

    Sports can foster things like teamwork, respect, etc. But there are lots of other ways (often more family-friendly ways) to build those character traits.

    Julie
    Julie recently posted…Things I Cannot Explain…My Profile

    • Dear Julie:

      Congrats on your decision to DECLINE. You showed great wisdom. I think we all know that there are virtues to organized sports but that a lot of parents seem to failing to set boundaries to retain balance. Sounds like you avoided this pitfall!

  23. I totally agree. When we were first married we observed a couple in our church that had 2 kids, one in hockey. He was 13 and they were gone almost every weekend. It was then we decided that the biggest reason that would not work for us (for any sport/activity) is how much we would miss our church family. It is difficult enough to fellowship with other believers, but to add on actually never going to church, makes it near impossible. We also wanted to stand strong in our belief of teaching our children that going to church is important, and rarely should it be trumped by other things. There is much value in participating in a team sport, making good friends and learning to be a humble winner and a graceful loser. But I wish more places had a more relaxed version of many of the sports that would interest us. It seem as soon as you sign up for hockey you are committed for 3 nights a week and all weekend. I think this was a great post!

  24. I completely agree. In fact, my husband and I were just discussing this a couple weeks ago. My husband played a lot of sports growing up and our nephew started in hockey when he was about 5 of 6. Now that our son is nearly 6, I thought my husband might want to sign him up next winter. I was rather shocked when he told me how much of a waste of time and money it is! He’s also told me a lot of the nitty gritty dirty details about what goes on in locker rooms with a bunch of boys and I’m so thankful that he agrees our kids don’t need to be exposed to that. The large majority of kids never make it to the “big leagues” so why do we push them like they’re already there? And if it’s all about teaching them team spirit, they can do that at drop in nights at the arena with a few friends. All the things that kids supposedly learn through competitive team sports will be learned through just living and participating in life in general. In fact,

    As someone who grew up without team sports (mostly, did a little karate with my dad and sister but that was 2 evenings a week together and one local tournament per year) I know that not doing competitive organized sports does no harm to a child. I still learned all the things that sports supposedly teach and those lessons didn’t cost my parents a dime. And my husband, as someone who did a ton of sports growing up (baseball, hockey, volleyball, long-distance running, basketball and probably a few others) he believes that it took away from his childhood and family time and the things that he really wanted to be doing. And guess what? He doesn’t do any of those sports now, unless it’s a pickup game with his friends. It would have been way more beneficial for him to pursue something that would have built up skills for his future career instead of using so much of his time and effort for something so temporary.

    That being said, if one of our boys shows a huge interest and aptitude in playing a sport competitively, we will be able to start with playing in the back yard and work up as God calls us. But we will only do it with much prayer and will always remember that family comes before play.
    Tessa W recently posted…Q is for Queens: 5 Observations About Royal Mothers Through the CenturiesMy Profile

  25. Debbie Smith says:

    This is very topical for our family at the moment. We live in South Africa where cricket and rugby are school sports and if you don’t get into teams as littlies then you will get left behind and never catch up.

    But we have had our eyes opened to how few kids actually make it professionally and how hard/distructive/injury-inducing those professional careers can be.

    So we are trying to encourage the development of life-long activity for our family (tennis, swimming, hiking are our aims). Activity that will promote physical and mental health for the rest of our children’s lives and not only until they leave the school/college sport system.

    So many of your thoughts have encouraged me today!

  26. So, you should all check out http://www.usfirst.org/programs. FIRST stand For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, and the events are run like a sporting competition with a robotics focus. Most teams at the higher level are largely (or even 100%) supported by high tech company sponsors, with low or no student fees.

    Participation makes you eligible for many university scholarships with combined value of $16-18M and the best part, is that the kids learn skills where everyone has a very decent shot of ‘going pro’.

  27. ButterflyWings says:

    I must say, the problem is not sports – the problem is lack of balance in life today.

    My daughter has always played one summer sport and one winter sport and she has thrived on it. It’s never been really competitive – in fact her winter sport for years has been soccer run through churches as a ministry – her first team for a few years was run through our church and her second team for two more years was run through the church that runs her school (the pastor being her coach one year, followed by her teacher – the pastor’s wife – the next year).

    The only other “sport” she did was self defense/martial arts classes that her and I both did through her school which I considered a must in our local area which isn’t very safe for girls and women – and as a way to spend time together doing something fun, as there are very few sports kids and parents can play together.

    While sometimes sport may feel like a burden – especially with my daughter’s fascination with cricket and girls’ teams being rare which means home games are a good 20 minute drive away at best (as is practice) and away games can be an hour or more away. But she loves it and due to low muscle tone, she needs the exercise. And it’s not all that expensive. I think the fees for 6 months was around $150, but that also covers all the necessary equipment. Uniform is optional, and while I have bought my daughter her own bat, that was so she could play at home – and a set of bat, gloves, leg pads and more was under $20 for a kids set. And in previous years, because she played for sponsored junior leagues, it was $60 for the season and all the kids got given bats and other things for participating.

    I have heard it argued that most kids don’t go on to use sports skills gained as a kid, but that is only as true as people make it. In my family, my parents used their childhood sporting skills as a ministry – for years they managed the church soccer club and reached many young people, many who never would have set food in a church otherwise. My brother now does the same on a smaller scale – running an adults team to reach out to non christian friends to introduce them to his christian friends as an ice breaker to reach them for God. My other brother and sister play for adult church teams that are not competitive – they play for the pleasure, but they also befriend the non christian team mates their christian team mates bring to the team as a way of reaching out. I used to do the same before injuries ruled me out of playing soccer, but I loved learning martial arts for self defense with my daughter as a way to connect with her for mummy-daughter time and as a way to make friends with parents of other school kids.

    I am more than aware of how many adults don’t continue sports they learned as a kid. But rather than condemning sports, one only has to look at the obesity crisis to see that adults needs more exercise. Maybe if adults worked less and spent more time doing sports with their kids, perhaps there wouldn’t be such an obesity crisis. And I don’t mean being “mum’s taxi” and sitting on the sidelines, I mean actually playing with the kids – coaching or doing a sport you can do together – anything that involves interaction and physical effort.

    To be honest, I despise cricket as a sport. I’d honestly rather watch grass grow than watch professionals play, but one thing I love when I am the one who takes my daughter to her games is when her side is batting (so only two players from their side on the field) is getting out there with her and practicing – I might hate the game, but I can bowl pretty good for someone who needs shoulder surgery.

    Sport is neither evil nor good. It is a tool – it can be a good thing when used properly and it can be a bad thing when abused. It is merely what people use it to be.

  28. Just wondering what would happen if parents and kids were as dedicated to being involved in their churches and in ministering to their communities as they are to their sports… There are other avenues to learn what it means for people to depend on them, to work together to accomplish a goal, to be rewarded for work well done, etc. There are church activities, nursing homes, soup kitchens, construction projects (like Habitat for Humanity), etc.

    Sports in and of themselves aren’t evil… however, I think we, as a culture, crossed the line to idolatry a long time ago. Definitely something to think through and make sure that what you say are your priorities are actually reflected in your day-to-day life.

  29. Sheila, thank you for this and a big AMEN! My boys both play soccer. My oldest is on a traveling team and you are exactly right, many of the parents travel far distances every weekend or so even in bad weather. We limit the number of tournaments we do to only a few (because of cost) that are close to home and only in good weather. In fact when asked if we are available for said tournament my response has been as long as the weather is good and actually our first tournament this winter we opted not to go because of snow and ice but many parents did go. I am not risking my kids life for a silly game. That is not even to mention not being able to have family time and dinner together which I really love. So no tomatoes being thrown from me. :)
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  30. Randy Frazee wrote a book called Making Room for Life, and in the book he talked about the same thing you’re talking about. His idea was the same – spend more time,money, and energy on family instead of sports/too many activities.

    Balance is key to everything – food, exercise, and sports. If it’s ALL you do on the weekends and after school it’s probably time to scale back. If its a couple times a week and plenty of time is left for family time then go for it. Kids learn a lot about themselves and working together with others in things like sports, dance, choir, ect. :)

  31. Sheila,
    I have to agree scheduling your life around when you have to drop the kids off for soccer practice, track practice, football practice, etc. etc. is sometimes over whelming to the point you ask yourself REALLY? Why am I doing this? One thing that was supposed to be in all of this is FUN for the kids. I like what you said “…Once upon a time, of course, sports were easy…” Oh to go back to playing football or soccer in the local neighborhood . Anyway, thank you for your post, I enjoyed reading it.
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  32. Stephanie says:

    My husband and I were just talking about this too!! I have another slant on it too. I was the third of four kids. I desperately wanted to be on a swim team, and I don’t think my parents ever computed that. HOWEVER, next thing you know my younger brother gets put in soccer, started small and ended up they were always gone. I was in my mid-teens when this started. By the time it go to where I was 19 and 20 my parents had no idea what was really going on in my life. I still lived at home – but THEY weren’t there. Always out evenings and weekends (AND SUNDAYS!! our old God and family day) and I never saw them. My 18th birthday was spent in a dump motel in Everett, WA because my brother had a game. Do you know what? He didn’t even want to do it towards the end but didn’t say anything because my parents (especially my mom) were so for it! It became HER life. I was disgusted and resentful. I was made to attend almost every game before I could drive and even after I could drive and was in college my mom made me feel guilty for not being there.
    SOooo, even though my husband was a rugby coach and is loves that stuff (he’s an Aussie and its in the blood) he totally understands and agrees with me that we aren’t going to be worshipping god of sport in this house. NO WAY. I’m a bit resentful if you can’t tell, and it still hurts to remember…..but if we do any sports one day, it cannot be at the cost of the other children, financially AND emotionally! Watch out parents if you have a bookworm or non-sport child near your sporty one, make sure they still feel valued. I didn’t.

  33. tanya munsil says:

    God made our bodies to walk and sprint occasionally, sure chop wood, build houses, etc, but our bodies were not made to endure hard combat sports which exhaust us. Consider why our bodies ache in the joints, back, hips, knees etc as we get older, especially those of us who were in sports, whether for mere pleasure or for competition. Think of what we can save our children from when we don’t put them in sports and let them be kids. Let them run and play outside without the added pressures of expectations, whether ours, theirs, or their teammates and instructors, coaches, etc. Sports are not going to run the United States of America, be our next judges, teaches, police officers, they are mere entertainment which costs our physical bodies dearly, not to account for the cost of such sports, medical bills from such sports, tickets, games, times, worry, panic, stress, pressure, unrealistic expectations, etc, etc, etc. I agree our children need to learn good sportsmanship, accountability, responsibility, teamwork, but many of these skills can be accomplished elsewhere in our daily lives. YES, we need exercise, but walking, playing tag, stop and go, red-rover are wonderful ways of releasing excessive energy.

  34. It gets complicated finding the balance when you have a child who is athletically gifted, as our oldest is. I love watching him play and watching him glow because he feels successful. While rec leagues are cheaper and an okay option, they just aren’t challenging enough for him. So our only option is to plug him into competitive/travel teams. But the reality for our family is…we don’t have unlimited funds and time. We’re constantly have to check and recheck our priorities to make sure we’re at least inching closer to balanced than away from it. But really, it’s just so complicated sometimes.

    One thing that has helped us scale back is feeling the brunt of the nasty under belly of competitive youth sports. It really brings out the nasty streak in many people. Especially the older the kids get. Yikes!

    Anyway. No tomatoes. You’re right. And it should be easier to make the decision…it’s just that nothing in parenting is really all that easy.

  35. As a mother of three boys who play football and basketball, treasurer of the league the play for, full time job holder and wife, i have to disagree. Throw tomatoes at me too if you choose… I have a planner and everything gets written in it. I have a routine during sports seasons and i deviate very little from that. I still cook/prepare 3 meals a day for all 5 family members and find time to workout myself. It has taken about a year to find a routine for our family but its the best its ever been for us. Notice i said FOR US. not everyone can handle it and many take on much more than i do successfully. Some sit on the couch all day eating candy and some work two and three jobs to keep their kids in sports.

    Here’s the thing.

    It’s not my business. I have no right to tell anyone what they and their family have time for. I don’t know what goes on in their home. All i can do is handle my family and do my best at it. I fail miserably some days just like everyone else but on most, my kids and husband and me are all happy and fulfilled from doing what we love. Whether or not someone else sees my schedule as too full is of no consequence to me. And i do my best to not judge someone else’s activities when i don’t know their situation. I honestly feel that if you’re truly concerned about a Mom or her family’s well being because they’re so busy, maybe we can offer help rather than judge her and how she handles things.

  36. I’m so with you.

  37. Agreed. I think there are families that can find a balance with sports. Yay them! Due to various life circumstances, we’re not one of those families. That means we don’t do sports.

    What gets me is when friends have multiple kids in several different activities and then constantly complain to anyone who will listen that they are “so busy”. I listen politely then try to kindly suggest that maybe they should consider dropping something. If you haven’t done a post on that mentality, it might be something worth considering Shelia. :)

  38. Hi Sheila!
    My family agrees with you! :o) What makes me shake my head are believers missing church to go sit on a bench.
    I understand commitment to a team, but I hope our commitment to our local church and the Lord is stronger than that. I know many people fear that this is shouting legalism, but I think it’s a matter of priority. The underlining message is sports are more important. I had a friend who has 3 kids involved in 3 different traveling soccer leagues. Her daughter cried one day and said, “Can I just have a day at home?”. While at the same time my friend is stressed. I know each family has to do what they think is best and are accountable to the Lord for that, but my family agrees with you! :o)
    I applaud you for tackling tough issues! I love your boldness and ability to handle them with much grace!
    Oh, my hubby was very excited about your Valentine’s list. :o)

  39. KellyK(@RNCCRN9706) says:

    My son plays sports. He loves it. Today, my husband took him to a basketball contest that was located in a town 100 miles away. He placed 4th in his age group. He’s playing basketball in our rec league…it’s just for fun. Right now, there’s no travel basketball team. Nor is there for football. He’s pretty good at baseball. Sign-ups for that will be next month. I THINK there’s competitive baseball teams around here..not sure of that. IF he wants to play in those…I’ll allow it. He’s our only child so there’s no other kid to compete with or work a schedule around..makes life a lot easier. I’d rather he play sports than sit in front of a tv playing Xbox all day long.

    Two years ago, when he started playing tackle football (not soccer) he had an infection on his lip. Ended up missing a week of practice and a game because we had to take him to a Childrens Hospital in Cleveland OH which is 100 miles from our town where we live due to a misdiagnosis by the local ER doctor and a major delay in treatment (I’m STILL mad over that one!!!) My son had to have the abscess surgically drained by a plastic surgeon there. Maybe if the 1st ER doctor had actually LOOKED at my son’s lip instead of just standing in the doorway of the exam room and brushing it off as an allergic reaction (angiodema) and ordering the proper treatment, we could’ve probably AVOIDED the entire surgery!!! Anyway…my point is that the football coach of my son’s team was very understanding that my son couldn’t play that week because he’d had a minor surgical procedure which caused him to miss a full WEEK of school!

    I would NEVER risk our lives to drive in horrible weather to a sports tournament. That’s just stupid! I’ve called off work because if I can’t see two feet in front of me, sorry but I’m not driving the 30 miles one way to work…you’ll just have to make due without me! NO JOB or SPORTS TEAM is worth risking my life or the lives of anyone in my family!

    Here, the sports aren’t that expensive as hockey. We pay $55 to sign him up for baseball. That includes a hat and t-shirt. We buy pants, which can be had for under $10/pr and he can wear last year’s pair. He could wear last years football cleats for baseball, which is what he did last year. May have to buy him a new pair of socks. IF he gets placed on the same team, which I suspect he will. They do try to keep the boys on the same teams. Football is $85. Uniforms are provided. We pay for shoes and that’s it. Last year, we sold subs which helps to pay to replace practice equipment. The rec basketball league he’s playing in right now is free and he gets a teeshirt from that. I do enjoy watching my son play sports. So long as he enjoys playing them, he’ll play. He’s made friends playing sports….some are in other grades….mine is in 4th, he’s got 3rd grade and 5th grade friends and of course some in his own grade. The day he comes to me and tells me he no longer wants to play sports is the day he’ll stop.

  40. I grew up playing sports and learned so much from participating, but I am so sad to not be able to encourage my children to do the same. At their age (late elementary), for the same sport, I maybe had a 1 week “season.” Now, it is a six month commitment with multiple practices and tournaments every week with Sunday “opportunities” every week. And for high schoolers what was once a three or so month season is now year round and I am seeing many athletes who make it to college sports burning out. It has been taken way too far. I am really hoping other opportunities will start surfacing for kids to be involved in sports that isn’t sacrificing other priorities like family time, a weekly rest and finances.

  41. With some comments posting about how their kids now can’t play for their school teams, and they have to out the commitment in to get their kids to the level required. – what about local fun games with mom and dad. I see more parent wasting time waiting and diving than actually spending time with their kids. I would way rather play sports for fun, with other families, encouraging healthy balance in all our lives, than sign up my kids for stress, fear, discouragement and a lot of Mom/Dad playing servant/chauffeure.

    • Hi Belinda
      I agree with you. Programs where parents and kids can learn a new skill at the same time (or just have fun) would be wonderful. Gymnastic would be great and even skating. If a parent wants to do anything, he/she has to arrange yet another activity and get a babysitter. So inefficient. Money for all of this is another story.

  42. We raised four boys. We allowed them to play soccer or baseball in the summer, no rep teams. They were allowed to play on school teams which were either intramural or just played across town against another school. We encouraged playing hockey on our driveway, soccer in the backyard, and basketball at the local park. I agree with you; no tomatoes thrown from me. Sports has become the new status symbol for parents who can brag about their children but not usually about their marriage!! I see it destroying families and wasting good money hoping for the next wayne Gretzky when they could be using it on family occasions and for their children’s education. We’ve completely forgotten that sports was about exercise and fun; not about status and hoping for fame!

  43. Since my husband has been an athletic director for years and coached my son’s soccer teams, I’m probably not the best audience for this post ! Lol but I do understand the concern. Both my kids did sports, even through college, but every event became a family event, and we used it as a way to connect with their friends. We had a blast, it drew us together as a family, and we have some wonderful memories! I wouldn’t trade it!

  44. Britiney @ Consider the Lilies says:

    I have mixed feelings about this. I have 3 boys ages 8, 11 & 13. They all play soccer. One also swims. Two play piano. Yes, we’re busy, but we still make time almost every day to eat as a family. While my schedule is crazy trying to keep the balls in the air, I love that they’re growing up valuing physical activity in a way I never did as a child. They live a lifestyle of fitness that I think is important and wish I’d had as a child. They only play soccer Sept – Nov and Feb – April so there are many months the schedule is much slower. On the off-months I find myself battling them about screen-time. Even during soccer season they still find time to just play with their friends – outside in the neighborhood exploring. So, while I hate the super busy months, I love the lessons it teaches my kids about being a part of a team and doing your best. And I am also super thankful for the slower months!

  45. Oh Sheila, so happy to finally find someone in my court! I have seen so many friends and colleagues have “no life” (and not much of a marriage) because they were too busy playing taxi and bench warmer for their kids. They have no free time, they are stressed out, they don’t really seem to enjoy it and complain about the costs. So… why do it then? There I’d even one lady at our church who’s son hockey tournament was scheduled on Easter Sunday!!! That’s just wrong on so many levels.

    I’m all for sports but only at the recreational level. I made it really clear from the beginning that my kids would not be doing competitive anything… mind you, if they had showed real interest and talent forsomething, I might hhave considered. Actually, my daughter was considering doing baton competitively so I explained the sacrifices SHE would have to make: no more sleepovers with friends, no free time in evenings, etc (they had an intense schedule (. In the end she’s the one who said no. I was quite relieved!

    I also want to say that hockey in particular is one sport I would avoid like the plague simply cuz of stuff that goes on in locker rooms and the overall attitude that the kids develop. Maybe this isn’t the case with all hockey players, but I worked at a school where there was a large group of hockey players cuz we had this sports program and I have never met kids that were more rude or more full of themselves than them. Two boys were even suspended cuz they urinated on another player in the showers cuz he had missed a goal or something. Really?!?

  46. It’s as simple as this, who are we to worship?? The Lord!!! We need to make a conscious effort to have our priorities straight and resist the pressures of the world. As my parents often said, “That might be fine for so and so, but in our family, that is not what we do.” I am so thankful for this now!

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  1. […] when you could have been getting things done to browse the computer; in the second, you’ve overscheduled the kids’ lives, and after a long day kids don’t always want to do homework right […]

  2. […] Yet we fill their schedules with activities that take them from home and from the margin needed to hone their creativity. I recently enjoyed reading Sheila of To Love, Honor and Vacuum's bold post "Are Kids' Sports Teams Worth It?" […]

  3. […] Yet we fill their schedules with activities that take them from home and from the margin needed to hone their creativity. I recently enjoyed reading Sheila of To Love, Honor and Vacuum’s bold post “Are Kids’ Sports Teams Worth It?” […]

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