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.