Thanks to my friend Jill (and Facebook), I just finished reading one of my favorite articles of the year. I suppose it is easy to love something that aligns perfectly with your beliefs and I know there are other sides to every coin but for now, let me share…
Our family is in the midst of scheduling our summer along with thinking about which activities the girls would like to pursue next year. Katherine has long been a jack of many trades and this tradition continues. She has yet to find a sport, a dance class or a play that she doesn’t love. This would all be well and good if society did not seem to dictate that all things become super serious, super fast. If you love soccer, than everyone says, “Try out for the travel team.” And by the way, the season is year round. If you enjoy spinning around the room, “Why not take ballet?” And while you’re at it, try jazz and hip hop and lyrical. And on and on and on. It seems to have become impossible for me to sign the girls up for one class or one practice per week. Doing so leaves me feeling like all of their peers are perfecting skills at mock speed while they are doing the equivalent of playing in the dirt.
In my new favorite article featured in the Boston Globe, “How Parents Are Ruining Youth Sports“, Jay Atikinson, writes, “single-sport specialization, the privatization of youth leagues, and the ranking and cutting of young children have become widespread. These are not positive trends, and coaches, educators, community leaders, and parents should take heed.”
I wish that people would listen but I realize how hard this trend is to buck. I believe strongly that we should let children be children yet I am one of these people who is signing up and committing and committing again to year round sports. If I am doing it, then how are we ever going to change the trend?
I wonder if we are simply caught in a culture that will not exist again. Atkinson writes, “Three out of four American families with school-aged children have at least one playing an organized sport — a total of about 45 million kids. By age 15, as many as 80 percent of these youngsters have quit, according to the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine.” Something makes me think that those millions of kid who dropped out of sports by age 15 (the age when they should really be enjoying their teams), won’t subject their own children to such crazy schedules. Maybe we must just live through this and let these kids make better decisions for their own families?
I don’t know the answer and I don’t know what we will decide within our own family. All I know is that this is something that we really should be thinking about and if possible, consider changing.