Dear Organizers of Youth Activities,
I am so glad you spend time organizing events and activities for the kids. Whether it is soccer, dance, hockey, flag football, Bricks for Kids, or t-ball, I appreciate all the effort. I know you don’t do it for money (and if you do, my kids aren’t in your activity). I know you likely are passionate about the sport or activity.
Maybe even as a kid, you wanted to play the sport you run all day, every day, and twice on Tuesday. That is cool. I want my children to be as passionate about everything they do as you are about your chosen activity.
I enjoy you being so into it by bringing my kids to your events and activities.
I suspect that your kids likely were or are very into the sport you lead. At one point of your or their life, they might have wanted to play all the time. Maybe you were just providing what they wanted.
I’ve got some bad news. Don’t take it the wrong way. Think of it as a call to action.
Your passion can make you blind. It can make it hard to see that if you force kids, if they want to be involved. It weeds out the riff-raff, the kids who want to sample a bunch of sports before choosing their focus in middle school. What you’re doing, though, is narrowing your scope too early. Kids and their interests change. If necessary, offer up the three or four nights a week, along with a weekend. But, please allow there to be a rec option, where kids can keep up with your sport/activity as they try others.
For example, forcing third graders to take ballet (if they are going to stick with hip-hop or jazz) stinks. Two practices per week with a game on Saturday stinks.
You're killing your sport. You're killing yourself. You're losing my kid.
I want my kids to run around the yard. I want my kids to do homework (and not at 8 PM). I want the weekends to do family things, and I don’t mean sleeping some Red Roof Inn outside of Akron for a travel basketball tournament. I want to eat dinner with my family as much as possible.
I don’t want to pay a year of college tuition for you and your activity to dominate my kids’ lives.
I just don’t.
You really shouldn’t either.
If you want the maximum number of kids to be varsity ready and interested, keep your net broad. Even if people get pushy, keep saying, “I want the kids to be kids.”
Some of the kids will change. Some will stay the same. You’ll have a broader audience. You can charge a little more for a little less work. You can sleep more. You can eat dinner with your family too. Your life will be better. So will mine.
Focusing too early, by all researcher, causes many problems. Injuries. No sports you can play for a lifetime. Limited friends. Bored easily.
Please, please don’t try to manipulate my emotions by telling me my kid is “accelerated” or “really talented” when he or she really isn’t. My kids are going to make their money with their brains, not their bodies. My wife and I have advanced degrees, not advanced experience in professional support.
Here’s what I would like you to do:
- Keep the total commitment for your activity/sport to two nights per week until 7th grade
- Partner with other activities the kids might want to try to allow the kids to try more than one activity per year
- Don’t make the kids travel longer than 20 miles to play sports/activity unless your location is EXTREMELY remote
- If you do have to do two nights per week, make the commitment durations six weeks or less
- Don’t manipulate me or other parents with untrue estimates of their kids’ skills
- Understand your sport will be better in the long run if you don’t burn younger players out in the short run
- NOT question my commitment to my kid if I don’t want to do what you want
Thanks for listening.
I look forward to a better tomorrow.