Youth Sports, I Love/Hate You.

It’s true. The thing is, I really do love athletics. They’re fun to play, fun to watch, and a good way to learn control of your emotions and discipline in practice. It’s just that in our neck of the woods, they are so time consuming. For some reason, the prevailing thought around here is that six and seven year olds should play three times a week for two hours each time. That’s a big commitment. Even if the kid loves the sport and wants to play every waking moment, it’s a big commitment for the parents, the siblings and the general family schedule.

My problem is that I’m not only thinking about what my kids gain from playing sports, but also what they’re giving up to play them. When we said ‘yes’ to baseball this year we were saying ‘no’ to a lot of our family free time. ‘No’ to peaceful family dinners together every night of the week. ‘No’ to lazy Saturdays with nothing on the calendar when we could spontaneously take off on an adventure. Of course, we were also saying ‘yes’ to getting out of the house into the sunshine…definitely a good thing. We’re lucky enough that there have always been siblings Tyler’s age for him to play with, so that means ‘yes’ to meeting new people and not having to help him entertain himself three times a week.

The early part of this baseball season was not fun at all. Midge was crawling everywhere and putting every sunflower seed shell and piece of trash in her mouth. The practices and games often fell during her naptime or at her bedtime or when I was supposed to be delivering her to a visitation. Even the games weren’t that exciting because I couldn’t watch what was going on as I supervised her and kept an infrequent eye on Tyler. For some reason Greg couldn’t make a lot of those early games. And at one point a few months ago Jake burst into tears, wanting to know how many more weeks of baseball he had to do.

But thankfully the last six weeks or so have been a lot better. Midge is walking like a pro now, which means a lot less junk in the mouth off the baseball field floor. And with Greg being there to keep me updated on the game action, I could actually cheer for the plays and root for a win. It’s such fun to get together with families whom you’ve built a relationship with, to cheer your kids on together.

Except for today, when I was rooting for a loss. We’re into playoffs now (after beginning the baseball season over four months ago…do the pros play for this long?) and if we had won, Jake would have to miss his great-grandmother’s 98th birthday party or miss the next game, neither of which was a good thing. So hooray for today’s loss. But I’m hoping for a few wins after that, because now that I can actually pass Midge off to Greg at the games, it’s fun to watch your team get into a game and do well. It’s not too bad when your kid gets the game ball, either. Today’s game balls went to one boy who made an unassisted triple play and another who hit his first home run. What fun to watch.

What will we do next year? Jake doesn’t think he’ll decide to play baseball again. We’d love for him to give tennis another try, knowing that he has real promise there and that the practice is only once a week for an hour! Tyler loves soccer. I hate soccer. He is five years old. So rather than sign him up for AYSO again and have him play twice a week, I’ll sign him up for a rec league where he can play once a week. When he’s six we’ll probably reconsider.

And what happens when our family expands to include more foster or adoptive kids? How do you occupy more than one little one at multiple games and practices a week? What about when they get older and each one wants to play something? Let’s not even go there. I think it will be a constant balancing act, trying to figure out how much is too much and how much is not enough.

One week of baseball to go. I think I’ll actually be sad when they have their last game and we say our goodbyes. Jake has enjoyed the team, the coaches have been great, and the playoffs are more fun that I thought they would be. Best of all, Jake has learned that even when you’re tired of something, if you keep at it, you can still have fun. Perseverance is a great lesson. For a son and for a mother, I guess.



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