sports parent

Sports Parents Dilemma: When is Enough… Enough with Youth Sports Commitments

I remember when I was five or six years old and our family moved to a new house. We were right up the hill from the little baseball diamonds. To say I spent a majority of my youth there is a huge understatement. We spent countless hours there playing baseball, watching baseball, hanging out with friends, and just enjoying ourselves.

Yet as much time as we spent at the baseball diamonds, we probably spent just as much playing baseball in our backyard, Nerf® basketball in our house, and real basketball in front of our garage and at the park. Youth sports was a big part of my childhood, and it is becoming a big part of my kids’ childhood as well. Just like my dad, I’m officially a “sports parent.” But youth sports and sports parenting is much different today.

While I’m an avid sports fan, I’ve come close to saying, “Enough is enough,” with youth sports. There are many more opportunities for our kids to play sports, but the level of commitment and seriousness can result in our families paying a cost and making sacrifices that my parents didn’t have to pay. I’d argue that, in some cases, youth sports can dictate a family’s life.

Here are 3 limits you can exercise to prevent youth sports from dictating your family’s life:

1. Limit the amount of sports your kids can do per season.

There is the opportunity today for almost every youth athlete to play a sport year-round. Last year, I had the opportunity to coach a basketball team for my son in April. We were going to play in two or three sessions (one game per week for eight weeks, plus a tournament). We almost went a full calendar year which meant my boys were also playing football at one point and baseball while playing basketball. We learned from that experience, and now we do our best to limit them to one sport per season unless there is a very small overlap. Without limits, we reached a point where our family was just about burned. Our kids yearned for a Saturday morning of doing nothing or an evening in which we could just relax and enjoy our time together — without loading up the car and getting home to rush a meal down and get in the bed. When we finally got a break, we realized we were missing “just us” time.

2. Limit the amount of money you’ll spend.

After finding out how much money we spent (in hindsight) on youth sports, we decided it’s time we limit that. Youth sports fees, travel, equipment, ticket prices, etc. should all be included in your budget. If you set “X” amount to spend and another “opportunity” to play in a league or join a team comes up, you will be less inclined to break your budget. This may take some discipline and learning some financial principles, but there has to be a limit.

3. Limit stealing time from other areas of your family life.

I use the phrase “stealing time” a lot when it comes to how we handle or manage our time. If it’s dinner time and my family is seated and waiting on me because I’m in the office doing “one more thing,” I’m stealing family time. If I have an hour for lunch at work and I go home for a two-hour lunch with my family, I’m stealing company time. If I promised my wife we’d date once per week but due to youth sports games and practices it doesn’t happen, I’m stealing our marriage time. You can borrow time occasionally, but limit how much time you steal from other areas for youth sports.

One of my big “whys” for youth sports involvement is the time we spend together doing something we enjoy. But there are also other ways. Don’t let youth sports dictate your family’s time. [Tweet This] Take ownership by limiting some things, and when you do play with them, coach them, or watch them, enjoy it to the fullest knowing you have not gone overboard.

Sound Off

What can you do today to keep youth sports from being too much for your family?

Jackie Bledsoe

Jackie Bledsoe is an author, blogger, and speaker, but first and foremost a husband and father of three, who helps men better lead and love the ones who matter most.

  • Mike Simonson

    The same theme is true of other youth activities as well. Sports being one of the biggest. Thanks for the timely reminder as we struggle with this topic in our household. Two boys in Football, Lacrosse, soccer, boy scouts, Cub Scouts, active in church and other clubs at school. Seldom is a day where we don’t have something going on.

    • Your household sounds very similar to ours, Mike. It’s a challenge, but definitely something within our control. Thanks for sharing!

  • David Green

    We had parents telling us our son was going to be “behind” because we didn’t start him in sports leagues at the pre-K level. However, we stuck to our guns, and a few years later when we DID start, he only did one sport at a time, and participated in leagues that were friendly to family and church priorities. In a way, we knew we were having to take a step of faith, asking God to honor this commitment, because of all the “peer pressure”. I’m happy to say that he was able to letter in two varsity sports as a freshman in a large high school this past year, and will play three varsity sports this year. When we look back over those early years, we have absolutely NO regrets about sports not stealing our family dinners, our worship at church, ability to take family camp outs, mission trips, etc. Sports have been fun; but they are only ONE part of balanced family life. I wouldn’t trade those years with my sons and our ability to do a variety of things. Even if I have to work for years past retirement because he didn’t get the magical college scholarship, I won’t regret those relaxed evenings where we could stay AT HOME and enjoy life together without running from one practice or event to the next. Thanks for a great article.

    • That is awesome, David!! Thanks for sharing. It encourages me.

  • Great post and insights Jackie! Being a parent means setting those lines ahead of time, just like budgeting our money or anything else. We love sports and our boys love playing, but we’ve tried hard to allow for margin and not let the sports rule our family. The world will take from us whatever we are willing to give it, but it’s not responsible for the well-being of our family… we are.

  • LexLegend

    I would add that the growing number of travel clubs is becoming a big challenge for families and athletes. Please not that if your child plays in a less popular sport or you live in a small town, travel ball may be your only option as a local league may not be available in that sport because of the lack of participants in the area. I would encourage parents to limit that level of competitive play until they reach 7th grade. I’ve seen some talented ball players burn out by the time they turned 13 because they’ve been playing that sport competively since age 5 or 6.

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