Works for Me: Sports

Children and sports. Decisions about this issue can have a huge effect on family life. Over the years we have handled sports a lot of different ways. When our older kids were in early elementary, once a week or so we played wiffleball with two or three other families. The kids learned the basics of baseball in a friendly non-competitive atmosphere. But schedules got busy and we drifted out of that habit.

Our first foray into organized sports consisted of soccer for three kids for about three years. The kids had fun with it, but three at a time in sports took a toll on our family time. We were eating fast food constantly, the preschoolers were getting sick of watching soccer games, and we never had a quiet evening of family time.

The quitting point for us came when the oldest of those three hit her teen years. Instead of all games being held in our town, 1/3 of her play schedule consisted of ‘away’ games, some of which were 1-2 hours from home. Between the requirement to arrive an hour early and the drive time and the actual game, ONE game could easily take four hours of our day. Younger siblings also had their day dictated by older kids’ game schedules.

We decided to take a break from soccer, and tried baseball for a couple years. Baseball games take longer than soccer games, but at least they were all held in our town. One boy loved it. Another was mildly interested at-bat but daydreamed in the outfield.

Then last year, the boy who loved baseball broke his jaw getting hit by a pitched ball. That ended his baseball season, and when it came time to sign up this year, he opted not to. Turns out the broken jaw was only part of his decision, but it did play a part in it. And I could understand. If somebody’d broken my jaw with a wild pitch, I wouldn’t be thrilled to enter the batter’s box again either.

This year we didn’t sign up for anything organized, but we did want to do something on a regular basis. We rounded up some friends who were soccer enthusiasts and arranged to get together for a casual soccer game every Friday night. Everyone over age 8 or so gets out on a soccer field at our local park, and they PLAY! There are all ability levels out on the field: some excellent soccer players, some younger ones who’ve never played organized soccer, and a dad here and there too. Though the rules are loose, the competition is fierce. No one under 8 or so is allowed on the field without a parent escort, lest they get bowled over by someone with their eye on the goal.

The kids who are too small to be safe out on the field alternately play on the playground and kick balls around on a nearby little-kid soccer field. (For added fun, we always squeeze in at least a trip or two to the icky park restrooms, where I try to balance little ones on the potty without allowing anything except their bums to touch any part of the facilities.)

Parents not involved in the ‘big’ game have fun chatting while little kids play. About the time the little kids get tired of the playground, the big people come panting off the soccer field rosy-cheeked and happy, and we all reluctantly head home.

I’ve been really happy with this way of allowing our kids to get some regular game time in a way that does not consume all our family’s free time. We may opt for greater involvement in sports in the future. (And actually, our 17 year old just signed up for an 8 week/once-weekly stint in adult rec soccer. She can drive herself if need be, and once a week is much more doable frequency than your average kids league that asks for 3-4 nights a week of committment.)

But for now for the rest of the crew, friendly Friday night soccer at the park works for us!

{ No Comments }

  1. That sounds so refreshing after having three boys/three teams/three towns/4 nights a week all spring and summer….How much more relaxing and healthy for the kids!

    Love this!

  2. I’ve always marvels at parents who have sports minded kids. Ours are all about the arts, although we did do two years of Jonathan competing in BMX from 6-8. That was a hoot!

  3. Great solution! We have had a similar experience with games scheduled out of town and finally had to take our oldest 2 out because of it.

  4. Your plan sounds great. We have just crossed over in to organized sports. At this point it is working out for us, but we only have one playing and the games are all local. In fact, I love the excuse to have an hour to sit in the sun and be expeted to do nothing but cheer. However, I am sure as the years go by the lure of sitting outside for a couple of hours will be overshadowed by my transformation in to cab driver. I am glad that you found a balance.

  5. what a GREAT idea!!!

  6. Great idea. Ours only played baseball a few years, but even that with local games and practices seemed to make our lives revolve around baseball for those weeks.

  7. your idea of community sports playing reminds me a lot of India.. when I was there, I noticed most kids grab their soccer or cricket gear and run off to the park to play with their friends after school… it seems like America has lost the idea that one can just go and play, you don’t have to have a league and a uniform and a coach to get excersize. Of course, it seems like it is not encouraged as much here. Across from my house is a middleschool with a big field, and anytime the school is closed they lock the field up. I have seem kids scaling the fence to have a place to practice softball with their friends, or play soccer… but mainly it just sits there empty. It’s no wonder obesity is such a problem…

  8. Love this idea! I want our kids, especially our boys, to be able to do sports but I often wonder about the craziness of it. Anyway what a good idea!

  9. Great idea! My boys are just now old enough to participate in organized sports and I am so overwhelmed at the thought! Thanks for showing me that it doesn’t have to be a tight schedule of practices and games and… (And you haven’t even touched on the money involved in all this!)

  10. You know, this idea doesn’t just have to be for kids. Pre-kids another couple I know would have “Recess Night” every once in awhile. They lived a good 45 mins away from us so we only went a couple of times, but it was fun. They played kickball and brought Frisbees and all sorts of things and just played whatever sounded good — just like recess.