I can’t wait to put my little guy on a soccer team. I think I have dreamed of cutting up little oranges and bringing in juice boxes for the team, gluing on the felt dinosaur cut-outs on his team sign, taking 1,000 pictures of him in his cute little uniform…ok I know, maybe I’m a little over bored but I am so excited! I have always loved watching kids play sports and seeing their different levels and talents. Parent watching is especially fun when you get a parent who feels like his 4 year old is playing for the world cup team. (You’ve seen those ones :) I feel like getting this experience is important for kids. In an article, in the Wall Street Journal, Sue Shellenbarger says:

Youth sports has big benefits for kids. Research links participation to better grades and self esteem, long term improvements in education and employment and lower obesity rates.

This would be great if this was all that youth sports entailed: Having fun, feeling better about yourself, learning to work as a team.  But the article titled, “Kids Quit the Team for More Family Time” goes on to say:

But the escalating time, travel and financial demands of many competitive youth teams are driving some parents over the edge.  Many are pushing back, dropping teams mid-season, barring year round competition for their children, or refusing to make their kids available for holiday or vacation time play.

In talking to close family friends a few months ago, they explained to my husband and I that they would have loved to have more kids, but they just couldn’t afford them.  “Getting them the lessons and onto the teams they need to be the best is just too expensive.  We couldn’t have afforded another child.”  We couldn’t believe our ears and truly felt like this is a huge problem of our time.  Organized team sports now start as early as preschool.  Children of younger and younger ages are being pushed to choose a sport, play it year round, and parents are being asked to pay a steep price to ensure their children are “the best.”

Is this really what we want?  Do our children need to be the best?  In the article stated above, multiple parents are quoted who have pulled their kids from teams or have limited the amount of time they can play a sport in order to have sufficient time with their family.  I salute those parents wholeheartedly.  We should always put family first and if something is consistently getting in the way of our time together, we may just need to decide “to play or not to play.”  That is a very good question!

By Elizabeth Buie

P.S. I’m a guest blogger over on Fun on a Dime today! Go check it out!!!