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.

Don’t let youth sports dictate your family’s time.

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. 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.

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What’s your favorite sport and why?”