As a mother of boys, sports are an inevitable part of life. Boys like to play rough. They need outdoor time, time to run and get dirty. It’s just a fact of boy life! But sometimes sports can push kids too far. When it comes to kids and sports, how much is too much?
I’m a mother of 3 boys, so I know a thing or two about sports. I’ve been to countless Soccer, T-Ball and Football games. Not to mention the twice a week karate classes we attended for years. Overall our experience has been good. Sure, a few of the soccer parents took it too seriously, yelling and screaming on the sidelines and challenging the referees. But for the most part, the sports teams we joined were made up of like-minded individuals.
Parents Push too Hard
The crazy thing about kids and sports is that most times the parents are the ones who push too hard. Parents are often guilty of trying to re-live their childhood through their kids. A father who wanted to be a professional baseball player but didn’t make it, a mother with serious volleyball skills who let the dream die. Parents are guilty of encouraging kids to live their broken dreams rather than encouraging kids to find their own passion and likes.
Our Experience with Flag Football
My middle son, Zach decided he wanted to play football a few years back. To get him into the swing of things we started off with flag football. The league is easy-going and the kids learn the basics of football while making new friends and having fun. Our experience with flag was a good one. The parents and coaches were nice and no one took it too seriously.
The Push with Tackle Football
After a year of flag football, both my 9 and 5 year olds decided it was time to put on shoulder pads and move up to tackle football. I was anxious about joining the league. Not because I was afraid for my kids to get hurt. They’re boys. I have three of them. I’m used to them getting hurt! But I had a feeling the tackle football league came with a much bigger commitment tag. I was right, it was much more serious!
At the initial family meetings, the coaches and staff of the tackle league were giving speeches about how the league is focused on teaching and having fun. “No one takes it too seriously” they said. But once the conditioning and practice schedule started, we knew that wasn’t the case.
Once “conditioning” started for my 9 and 5 year olds, I came to the sudden realization that these parents and coaches are REALLY SERIOUS about football. All participants were required to be at EVERY conditioning camp for 4 days, 2 ½-3 hours/session. Tackle football season started in mid-August in Florida. Which means the temperatures were ranging from the mid 90’s to 100 degrees.
The children were required to be in full gear: helmet, shoulder pads and padded pants. They were being “conditioned” to take the heat, to run in full gear in the dead of Florida summer, to tackle each other to the ground and get back up. The kids were given minimal breaks, about one every 20-30 minutes for 2-3 minutes at a time. Just long enough to get a drink of water and get back into the “conditioning”.
As the practice schedule progressed, my husband and I were even more astonished. Being that our kids were different ages and on different teams, they were required to practice at separate fields. This required my husband and I to split-up immediately after work. He would take one kid to practice and I would haul the other. The practice started at 6 p.m. and ended at 8:30. We were instructed to give the kids a light snack 30-45 minutes before practice. That meant we weren’t able to eat dinner until nearly 9 o’clock at night! IT WAS TOO MUCH!
Ending the Torture
It only took 2 ½ weeks for my husband and I to decide the tackle football league was TOO MUCH for our family. The league had taken kids and sports and pushed too far. Although it was too much for our family, it’s obvious we’re not the norm. There were hundreds of kids participating in this league, and thousands taking part throughout the city.
I saw children vomiting from heat exhaustion and over-exertion. I saw parents and coaches yelling at the kids to keep going and forcing kids to re-run drills. Until those sick kids made it through, the entire team suffered. I also saw several children break bones during the practices.
Keep the Fun in Sports
After our shocking experience with the tackle football league, we went back to what we know. We put the kids back in karate two days a week and enrolled them in winter flag football. There’s a way to keep kids excited about sports. We shouldn’t push so hard that kids are exhausted, sick and injured. What works for our family is a more laid-back approach to kids and sports. We want our kids to have fun and learn the basics.
It’s up to you to decide about your kids, sports and what’s too much. What IS too much for your family? You may be a die-hard football fan who enjoys sitting at the practice field for 8 hours/week. Every family is different, every child is different. What works for one, may not work for the other. Know what you’re getting into before you sign-up. Make the best of sports for your family.
Playing sports is a part of life for most kids. Learning to work as a team and getting adequate exercise are great reasons to encourage kids to play sports. Get to know the leagues in your area, choose the one that’s right for your family AND JUST HAVE FUN!
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