Have Summer Sports Gotten Out of Hand?
If you have kids involved in summer sports, you know that the school year athletic schedule can hardly compare to the summer "off season" on steroids. And how about those ultra-competitive club teams that consume the off season? Has it gotten out-of-hand? I think so.
Here's a snapshot of a day in the life of my 17-year-old: 6:30-8:00 a.m., volleyball workouts; 9:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m, work for an actual paycheck; 3:00-5:00 p.m., basketball open gym; 5:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. June league volleyball games.
We've become a culture that places way too much emphasis on sports, at the expense of family, church and general summer relaxation. Coaches are trying to keep up with their peers, trying to stay competitive, trying to hold on to a job in this hyper-fueled atmosphere. Kids are exhausted, parents are frenzied. Siblings not involved in sports get the shaft. Sitting down to dinner together is dang-near impossible. The most you can hope for is a dine-and-dash in the drive-thru. If you have multiple kids in sports, the family is constantly divided. I am not exaggerating when I say I think it leads to a higher divorce rate. It's easy to lose connection when you're never together.
Coaches can't shoulder all the blame. Parents, myself included, have allowed this escalation to sports madness. We allow ourselves to be held hostage to our kid's schedules. Some parents see a pathway to scholarships that will never materialize, not to mention many are spending more on youth sports than they could ever make up for in monetary assistance from college.
What can we do to bring reasonable limits to off-season sports? Here are my thoughts. Club teams need to cool it. Cut back on the schedule of tournaments that last all weekend in far-flung locations. For high school sports, I suggest the state athletic associations step up and set limits. In Missouri, MSHSAA allows us one "dead week" in the summer where coaches are allowed no access to their athletes. That needs to be expanded considerably. How about a week of camp and a couple tournaments? Now some people will argue that more limits aren't necessary. After all, open-gym style practices aren't mandatory. But, let's be real here. Parents and kids know that if athletes don't show for these voluntary practices, the coach is going to question their commitment and that will lead to less playing time.
Instead, let's throw it back to the good old days and let the kids arrange their own pick-up games. Let's give the kids a chance to work and learn the responsibility of bringing in a paycheck. Let's turn summer back into an enjoyable, relaxing time and not a scramble to get from one event to the next. Stop the insanity!!