Many kids these days are involved in competitive sports. From little league to gymnastics, swimming to soccer, basketball to ballet, there’s an endless list of activities that children and teens can participate in where they can improve and showcase their athletic ability, create friendships, and learn important life skills like communication and teamwork. But at what point does a sports hobby go too far? When do the sacrifices (all-day meets, missing out on vacation, meticulously counting calories, etc.) become too much of a burden? Here are a few ideas to consider to help you decide whether or not you need to scale it back with your kids’ sports:
Family Life Is Off Balance
One of the first things to ask yourself is if life feels “off” because of your children’s competitive sports. Being dedicated is one thing, but being consumed is quite another, and some families find that they are spending way too much time, money, and energy on their children’s extra-curricular activities. The world of competitive sports can be intense, and even if your kids are loving it, it may be too much for the parents to commit to. If you find this to be true for your family, it’s alright to cut back.
Single Sports Can Be Limiting
In older generations (yikes! That includes us as parents!!), young people would try out a variety of activities and spend a day or two a week at practices and games. Now, however, so many kids (and parents) seem to fixate on a single sport. While there’s not necessarily anything wrong with children having preferences or finding what they’re good at, things can become problematic when one singular activity prevents them from branching out. Consider encouraging your son or daughter to explore their interests or try a new hobby.
Too Much Pressure Is Unhealthy For Young Kids
Kids’ sports can be competitive and require discipline, but they should still be primarily about having fun. Unfortunately, some coaches seem to forget this and may make threatening statements like, “If you don’t work hard, you’re going to lose your spot.” or degrading comments such as, “You need to lose weight if you think you are going to compete next week”. In my therapy practice, I find that kids involved in intense sports programs are having problems with anxiety and, at earlier and earlier ages, are turning to unhealthy habits (like restricted eating and compulsive exercising) to maintain their athletic prowess. If a sports team is more pressure than fun, it might be time for you to have your child take a step back.
Childhood Only Happens Once
Young people are supposed to have significantly less responsibility than adults. Sure, they still need to learn important values, but it shouldn’t be a highly stressful time. We can’t rob our kids of this experience…it only happens once! Let kids be kids; they’re not professional athletes, and they should be able to have fun without getting burned out (physically and emotionally). When a sports activity becomes so intense that children have to sacrifice parts of their childhood, it’s definitely time to consider taking a break.