As one season ends and another begins, I’ve done a lot of reflecting on this thing that is “Youth Sports.” For my family, it’s soccer. For your’s it may be baseball, football, or volleyball. You can fill in the blank with any sport and quickly see that many of the challenges are the same – the time commitment, the financial commitment, the travel, the tryouts, the injuries, the losses or unfair shakes. The list of challenges seems almost endless at times. So why do we do it?
I took the time the other night to stop and watch my (not-so) little sleep, knowing that after a long challenging weekend of soccer, she left everything she had on that field, yet she and her team fell short of a bid to Regionals. Having lost only twice their entire year (and they played a ton of games), a tie in their last game, just wasn’t enough to get them to the next level.
My girl and her team were devastated. They were angry, frustrated and just plain hurt, and not in a sore loser kind of way. Admittedly, the parents weren’t doing much better. So as I watched her lie still, completely mentally and physically exhausted, I wondered “Is this really worth it?” And then, as quickly as I had that thought, I remembered the number of conversations we had on the way home from that game and answered my own question . . . . Without a doubt, YES!!! IT’S TOTALLY WORTH IT!
If you aren’t the parent of a child involved in youth sports, you might not understand why we, as parents, allow our children to play sports at a competitive level at such a young age. Or, maybe you’re the parent of a child that isn’t interested in super competitive sports yet. Even so, read on. Maybe you’ll walk away with an understanding as to why those of us that allow our children to play at this level made that decision.
So why do parents involve their kids in sports at such a young age?
Is it to make new friends? Or to give everyone something to do at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday morning? (I can assure you this isn’t it! That’s just one of the perks of being a sport’s parent.) Maybe it’s to expose their kid to the same sport they played? I suppose two of the three options are a possibility; however, none of them went through my mind when we signed my daughter up for soccer.
You see, Avery has parents that were involved in team sports growing up – softball, baseball, soccer and cheerleading. (And, YES, cheerleading is a sport. I will smack anyone who thinks otherwise. 😉 ) When deciding which sport Avery would participate in as a child, whether she would have fun doing so obviously played a big role in our decision. At first, she (and we – well…, mostly I) chose cheer. But, after one year, it was apparent that this was not the sport for my girl (she’s rather tall and stiff – neither of which work well for cheerleaders). She had fun doing it but lost interest pretty quickly, which was fine because she was only 7.
That said, her dad and I both agreed that because Avery was rather athletic, if she wasn’t into cheer, she needed to be involved in something else. We believed (and still do) that sports would not only keep her active, but would also keep her out of trouble (this will obviously come into play more in her high school years), as well as allow her to develop tenacity, respect, and integrity. Because there are so many positive life lessons learned through the involvement of sports, we felt as though we would be doing Avery a disservice by not involving her at an early age. Now, before you get this twisted, I’m not suggesting these things can’t be learned elsewhere. They can. But sports are a great place to develop these characteristics as a child, which will only benefit one as an adult.
Sports teach kids:
S – SELF-CONFIDENCE
P – PERSEVERANCE
O – OVERCOMING ADVERSITY
R – RESPECT
T – TEAMWORK
S – SACRIFICE
After going through a list of sports offered in our area, soccer prevailed as the popular choice. After her first season, she was hooked. By the next year, recreational play wasn’t enough for her. She wanted to play competitive soccer. In our area, this is also known as “club soccer.” This is where things get real. Club soccer (and any other club sport) requires parents to shell out lots of cash for their little ball kickers to travel to tournaments hours away to play some of the best teams in their region. This is where the real sacrifices occur.
At a younger age, the sacrifices are mostly felt by the parents. However, at an older age, and as we enter a new year of soccer, it has become obvious the sacrifices these girls make to play the sport they love. In fact, Avery has given up lots of birthday parties and school sanctioned events to play for her club. But the love she has for this sport, her coaches and teammates, have made that decision worth it every time.
You see, being part of a team is being part of a bigger family. These girls sweat together at least 2 nights a week and play up to 4 games together on the weekends (not every weekend – they do get a break – I swear!). They stay together in hotels, eat meals together, celebrate wins together and suffer loses together. They support each other on and off the field. They have each other’s back and call themselves sisters. They ARE a family and don’t ever tell them any different!
The same stands true for the parents that are shuttling these girls around to score goals. We all stay together, eat together, win together and lose together. We see each other at least once a week (many times more). We take care of each other’s kids without batting an eye. We braid hair, fill water bottles and carpool without question. We share cleats and socks, and pitch in to help our own with no hesitation. We, too, have become a family. We may not share the same DNA, but we share the same love for our girls and the sport that brings them far more joy than tears.
When Avery began soccer in the Spring of 2014, she was a terrified 8 years old that had no clue what to do. Fast-forward 5 years and countless games, she now takes the field without any sign of a butterfly in her stomach, knowing far more about what she has to do to get the job done than we do (well, at least her mom – dad did play soccer so he may know a thing or two). Best yet, she LOVES (almost) every moment of it (the whole losing thing is never enjoyable).
The development of confidence and love for her sport is worth the many sacrifices I make to have my girl play. It’s also the reason that I am as passionate about her sport as she is. In fact, Soccer Saturdays are my favorite days and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
xoxo – Bridget