Youth sports are destructive to family life

Soccer KidsI was in a meeting the other day in which we went around the table and introduced ourselves to each other. We were meant to describe our personal, non-work lives, and some people named hobbies, or told about their recent vacations, but more than half of the people at the meeting said they were big readers, or enjoyed hang-gliding, but 60% or so said they were the chauffeur for their kids and their soccer obligations, and slave to their children’s sports schedules.

I’ve found it’s nearly impossible to invite friends with traditionally schooled children to do things spontaneously on weekends–picnic or go hiking on a beautiful day, go out for dinner. “Sorry, Tommy’s got baseball”. “Can’t today, Melanie’s soccer practice.” Fortunately homeschooled kids seem to do a lot less organized sport and seem less invested in conforming with suburban social expectations. If you live in the suburbs, participation in team sports seems to be all the social activity on offer.

What an astonishing loss of life. Is it worth it to lose all that time with family and friends? The losses are steep. In a post on Mom’s Team, a blog for “Sports Parents”, Jeannette Twomey lists the things her family has missed:

“Over the years, we saw one family activity after another bow its head to youth sports. Dinner at home, reading before bedtime, visits to grandma’s house, household chores, games in the backyard, picnics, weekend jaunts into the countryside, camping trips, school vacations – all casualties of the children’s sports schedule.”

The rest of the family generally bears the brunt of one kid’s involvement in sports. How much lost time together, how many things missed? It boggles the mind.

Generally team sports  are not lifelong sports. You don’t see 50 year old men playing soccer or hockey. Lifelong sports are things like skiing, tennis, dancing, yoga running–70 year olds are still doing these. And the whole family can do them together.

8 thoughts on “Youth sports are destructive to family life

  1. Your points are well made. I am not a parent, so I can only comment from the pov of an observer. It seems that too many parents’ lives are defined 100% by their kids’ activities. Kids learn from observing how their parents enjoy life too, thought, how their parents navigate and balance the fun in life that should include friendship, leisure, and love.

  2. Good observation, Daal. One of my friends said the best parenting advice he had been given was “Happy parents make happy children.” Parents who can model that happiness for their children can show them how it is done. Many parents love driving to and attending games, but also many who do so reluctantly. My sense of my colleagues in the meeting was their participation was reluctant.

  3. As a father of six and who has two kids playing sports now. I agree. But why do we do it? We tell ourselves it is for the kids, to give them a wide range of experience, so they learn valuable life lessons. I wonder if what we are really teaching is that family togetherness is underated. Great post.

    • Yes, I think all the participating parents are doing it because they believe it is in the best interest of their children. And team sports have many virtues. However, when they detract from family togetherness IMO they have gone too far.

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. This resonates. Thank you. Our family lives in over-scheduled suburbia. Sometimes it feels downright dystopian. That dystopia extends well beyond organized sports. My poor daughter needs to be scheduled to socialize. She gets baffled by such “rules” and does not enjoy the activity and is frustrated that she can’t enjoy free time with her buddies. I’d love her to experience the joy of team-based activities- be they sports, performance, or a gaggle of kids doing free-form play.

    So we, and when I say we I mean my wife who is “lead parent” at the moment, have organized a series of outings for a group of like-minded families. We meet at the beach weekly in the summer, and monthly during the rest of the year. The kids are generally left to create their own fun, and we parents do the same. Even though this is scheduled time, it’s not overly structured. It’s like respite care for weary families. Our fifth year begins a week from today.

    These are the habits we hope to model and instill. Thanks again for this post!

    • Your monthly outings seem wonderful, scheduled but unstructured. I grew up in the “be home by dark” time before enrichment programs, youth sports domination and extracurriculars came on the scene. All the kids were free to wander the neighborhood in our little cul-de-sac.

  5. I live with a 45 year old man who plays hockey and have a father who played basketball until he was about 62 at the temple. Both are super intellectual, thoughtful people etc etc. They both get a huge amount of joy from their teams. I know a lot of women who played soccer and basketball and softball on co-ed leagues or even just women only teams. I’m really surprised at some of these thoughts. That said, I get it: luckily my daughter is not that great at the sport she loves (soccer). The bigger problem is all the parents who can’t tell coaches “no” and don’t prioritize their lives properly. But I don’t think teams sports is the big problem, especially for girls. Of course, if your kids hate it, don’t make them do it!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: