I was a very good high school volleyball and basketball player and could have played either sport (or both) in college.
I chose basketball and was a Division I Basketball player for Western Kentucky University.
I played my first sport at age 9. And it wasn't basketball or volleyball. It was softball.
I didn't play basketball until I was around 12. I first played volleyball at 13.
It wasn't until I was in the 10th grade that my father, who was also my coach, suggested I eliminate softball from my arsenal of athletic activities. Basketball and volleyball were dominating my schedule, and it was suggested that cutting one out that I wasn't all that good at might be a good idea.
In addition, in the middle of an intense recruiting process, I began to burn out. I told my Dad that maybe I didn't want to play big time basketball. Maybe I just wanted to go to some little school somewhere.
My father's response: "If that is what you want, I support you 100%."
I have written about my opinion of coaches and parents and young athletes in previous blog posts. You can read those here:
- 10 Things Parents of Athletes Should Know
- The Only Six Words Parents Need to Say to Their Kids About Sports
JB and I have continually gone back and forth about whether to put our children in sports. We feel pushed and encouraged to do so from various sides. I did, in fact, put the boys in tennis while we were in the Azores. It was a cheap opportunity, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn some hand-eye coordination. JB was not a fan of me doing it, but he allowed me to put them in. Neither of them particularly liked going, and while they did learn some things, generally, the activity just cluttered our schedule.
I don't have any problem with kids playing sports young. If the families are enjoying this and the kids are enjoying it and it is a healthy family experience, then I don't see anything wrong with it. I recently attended our friend William's Upwards soccer game, and it seemed like an incredibly positive environment and good opportunity for faith and fun to couple together in a family-centered environment.
However, what I hear from most of my friends when it comes to children and activities is instead a feeling of exhaustion, frustration, and lack of time as they race from activity to activity. I feel that children are being started way too young and being pushed way too hard. And because they are, I, as a parent, have FEAR.
I have FEAR that if I don't put my children into sports soon, they will be left behind forever, and they will never be able to catch up. I think in general, pushing this hard is a RACE TO NOWHERE. Most children do not play even intramural sports by the time they get to college. They are burned out and bitter. I think it is utterly ridiculous that:
- children are being encouraged to narrow their focus before high school.
- children must get private lessons or attend extra camps to be considered for a spot on a team.
- families must give up vacations or that an athlete must choose between a holiday with their parents and an athletic event.
- coaches must focus more on creating winning athletes instead of creating winning young men and women.
- children are being pushed without ownership, enjoyment, and intrinsic motivation.
- sports dominate to such a degree that a childhood is eliminated in exchange for running from place to place.
- parents and coaches are robbing a child of the opportunity to be a child, to play freely, to explore sports of interest, and to learn to love sports and become active for life.