What’s happened to kids’ sports?

By Polly Bonacuse 

I come from an athletic family. Growing up, the more sports we played, the better – it was fun. So it’s no surprise that I have an athletic son, who is approaching the age group where sports are getting more and more competitive.

And I’m nervous.

In this past week alone, I’ve talked to a parent thinking about sending his kids to boarding school, in hopes that they’ll get a scholarship to a division one school. Another parent whose 5th grader is at school or a sporting practice/event from 6:30 am to 8 pm every weekday, with multiple games on the weekends (many out of town) and is trying to figure out how to make time for private lessons. Another family whose child has spent close to a year at required practices and camps, and has already sacrificed spring break, just to try out for the sport he wants to play.

What is going on?

I get that we parents all have high hopes for our kids and want them to succeed wherever their strengths lie. But my expectations are simple: I want my child to be part of something, have a sense of accomplishment and above all, have fun. (And as he gets a little older, stay out of trouble!)

Through sports, he is learning skills such as setting goals and working toward them. Learning how to lose, and also learning how to win. Participating on a team where teammates and coaches count on you. Knowing what it’s like to be the best player on a team, and the worst. He’s being physically active and making lasting friendships. These build character, which he will carry with him through life after sports (which, realistically, is after high school, as the percentage of high school athletes that go on to play college sports is in the single-digit range).

So, I’m nervous that my expectations aren’t high enough. That I’m doing him a disservice by encouraging him to play sports for fun instead of scholarship potential. Giving him free time to play outside with his buddies instead of paying for extra coaching. Allowing him to be a kid.

And a little weather Haiku to brighten your day:

Spring. How you tease us.
60 degrees, then it snows.
Let’s get on with it.

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