As we head look towards another Little League opening day this weekend, I sat down yesterday and began to fill in the dates for games, practices, etc., for the next two months. In our house alone, with two children, we have basketball, baseball, swimming, alto sax, baritone sax, and percussion. That means practices, performances, and games for each and every one of those activities. I realize that our weekends are booked, our nights are filled, and the quality family time we so desperately need is absent.
Why is it that sports and activities now run year round? How did we get to a place where you no longer sign up for a sport or activity for fun, but now you train year round? Now you don’t just play in jazz band, you try out for advanced or intermediate. You don’t just swim on a swim team, but you swim for US, township, and summer swim club. You don’t just play little league. You try out for and play on travel and tournament teams, and you get drafted to play township baseball. DRAFTED. Seriously????? At age 10? What are we doing here?
Last time I checked, neither of my children is on track to get a college scholarship for sports, compete in the Olympics, or play professionally on a sports team or in a symphony. So why is it that so many parents have bought into the expectation that our lives and schedules have to be driven by games, practice, and I almost forgot – conditioning? Yep. Parents (including myself) are paying money for individual lessons, training, and conditioning so the kids can excel at the four sports, seven teams, and three instruments they love so much. Not to go all “when I was a kid” on you, but, when I was a kid, we played one, maybe two sports a year and we did not have games or practices every night of the week. We especially did not have games scheduled at 7am or 10:30pm on a Saturday let alone a Sunday.
Our family lives and the choices that we make regarding them are dominated by these insane schedules. How can we expect to build and raise strong, kind, independent children, when the majority of time we spend with them is spent watching from the sidelines? Not that I don’t enjoy going to the games, performances, etc. I love it. I just don’t see how we as parents can have a true hand in the development of our children and families when so much of our time is dictated by these intensely competitive schedules.
For me, I look around and talk to other parents about what their children are doing and I worry. Am I doing enough? Are my kids getting enough training? The reality is, that if they are not talented enough to compete at the level of the other boys their age, someone is going to tell them they can’t play. How awful is that? Wanting to play and loving the game isn’t enough anymore as a kid. How did we as parents, coaches and board members allow this to happen? Is it our own competitive nature as adults in play? C’mon. Every single parent is competitive on some level with their kids. It’s a reality. When did it become okay to put the demands of a township baseball or swimming team before the demands of cultivating a strong and connected family unit?
I’m not saying families aren’t strong. They have to be to maintain the intensity of the schedules and not fall apart at the seams. I am saying that the quality of the strength is sacrificed when we as a family can’t schedule an extended family dinner, get to church, go see a movie, have catch in the backyard because our lives are dominated by these crazy demands. It’s out of control and I’m over it.