Monday, October 22, 2007

Finding balance

Are today's kids overscheduled? I met with my potential swim team a couple of weeks ago, and was innundated with the typical questions of how I will deal with conflicting schedules between my high school practices and the local year round team practices. I generally try to find a good balance so that my swimmers feel like they are part of my high school team and still don't overtrain. Still, it got me thinking.

Some of these swimmers are already attending ten practices a week. Added to that, they will be required to attend three high school practices each week. Of course, they also have the hours they spend at school and doing homework. It seems like every minute of their day is jammed packed, and many of these kids have had their schedules dominated by structured activities since early childhood.

While structured activities are certainly important, is today's society taking away our kids' childhoods? Homework starts in kindergarten where I live. When I was a kid, we didn't have any homework until 3rd or 4th grade. We were excited about getting homework because that meant we were big kids. We participated in sports, but we had a different sport for each season. Year round teams meant you were trying to make the Olympics. Today, kids almost have to participate on year round teams if they want to compete even at the high school level.

When my oldest daughter decided to go out for the JV cheerleading squad at school, her friends all thought that I wouldn't let her since being a cheerleader would prevent her from being on the swim team. They assumed that since I am the swim coach that swimming is my top priority. Thankfully, my daughter knows that I want her to be active in things that she enjoys regardless of whether it's something I'm involved in or not.

Still, I worry about how many teenagers I talk to who are going out for sports because their parents are making them. Many parents feel that they have invested too much money in a particular sport to let their child give it up. Maybe they don't realize that the rewards are supposed to come from their child's happiness, not some bragging rights of how good their child is or how far they have gone in a particular activity.

This fall I have one daughter on the JV cheer squad, one daughter playing rec. soccer, and another daughter in piano lessons. I enjoy watching each of my girls in their different pursuits, but the thing I enjoy most is looking outside my window and watching my little ones running out in the yard with the neighbors. I love seeing the kids at play, using their imaginations to have fun. These are the days that they'll remember, the ones when they were simply allowed to be kids.


Steph said...

I wish I had words to express how much this post sang to me. This is a discussion we've had with friends and family time and again.


Summer said...

I wish that fanatical sports parents only existed in movies.
I dream of my kids playing high school basketball like I did, but if they don't want to someday, I know I'll be fine with that. I'm excited about seeing them develop their own interests and learning to do things I never did.

jenny-up the hill said...

We homeschool and still have all these wonderful things clogging up our schedules. I've felt that things have been out of whack for awhile now and I'm just not sure where to cut yes, I think our kids are doing too much...

so grateful to be Mormon! said...

amen sister. i have done this with our kids, too. i believe in having kids in some stuff, but not overscheduled. i believe it is important for them to have enough time free in their schedules where they can just "be," too. kids who have some time are able to create, to use their imigination, to play freely with others like the running around in the yard with the neighbor kids. i was impressed a couple years ago when daughters ~A and ~E came back from girls camp (it was called bootcamp and they did a military theme). the girls had a blast and when they came back, they set up our backyard like a military camp, bootcamp, and obstacle course, and they let a bunch of the neighbor kids come on over. one daughter was the drill sgt. and she even had kids doing pushups, etc. they had a great time and all of this was not structured. and they had time. thanks for making me think of this tonight. nighty-night, kathleen :)

boogiemum ( said...

I agree with you! I have tried to keep my kids "under-scheduled" compared to many of the other kids their ages.

Life is so rushed as it is, why add to it?

I allow my kids to each be involved with one extra curricular at a time. I think that is just the right amount for them and our family. :)

Ajoy said...

I purposely have waited until my kids are older to put them in sports. My oldest Conner is in 5th grade and this is the first year we have had a sports player in our home. A lot of parents might think this is depriving a child- in some ways yes. But not really. I figure Conner still has YEARS ahead of him to enjoy sports. As well as our other 4 children coming up after him. I am putting of the inevitable is how I see it.

It's not llike we are raising super athletes who will be doing this for a career! Not that I would mind if they did- it's just not our priority. My husband is very athletic- I am sorta surprised he hasn't pushed the sports as I thought he would have. Thankfully, this one aspect we see eye to eye.

And yes, I think too many kids are in too many sport activities for their own good.