Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Kids Sports - The Race to Insanity... (I Win!!!)

My "team"

Greatest Decision or Biggest Mistake?

When my oldest son was 4, his dad and I signed him up for his first sport. By the age of 2, he had pretty impressive eye-hand coordination. It just seemed natural that sports was the next step after surviving preschool dodge ball.
His first "team sport" was beginner t-ball. After his first game, I was hooked. There was nothing any cuter than seeing a group of 4 year olds get excited and run the bases backwards, spin aimlessly out of control after swinging (and missing) the ball, but being mostly thrilled with the post game snacks. As he grew older, he asked to play other sports. By the time he was about 7 or 8, he had determined basketball as his favorite. We had ourselves a little basketball player.
Coming along were his 4 and 2 year old brothers. His 4 year old brother chose to play soccer first. Although we knew nothing about the sport, he picked it right up and ran with it. Literally. At 15, he still loves it.
His younger brother, two years behind him, has found that football is his favorite. Quickly picking up a lefty QB position, he found a passion for a sport that neither of his older brothers played.
Lastly, the baby of 4, who is now ten is still searching for his niche. His favorite sport is the one he happens to be playing that particular season. 
In 15 years, I have gotten many a butt cramp on bleachers watching t-ball, baseball, soccer, basketball and football for my four kids. I have been rained on, sleeted on, snowed on, sneezed on, puked on, peed on, slept on, bled on at all of the above. I have resorted to wrapping myself in lawn chair covers to stay warm as well as stripped layers to cool down. I have scraped up change from beneath my drivers seat to pay to get in the gate. I have smuggled in more than my fair share of food and drinks to keep from paying $2.50 for pack of peanut M&M's. I have made mad dashes between back to back games to nearby sporting goods stores for back up cleats, pants, socks, you name it. McDonalds should have a McKristen's branch. I have worn out tires, transmissions, and other car essentials driving across the glorious state of North Carolina from mountains to coast...and back.

15 years and counting.....

I catch a lot of flack for "being too busy" with my kids. I get A LOT of comments such as:
Why don't you tell them no?
Well, believe it or not, I do! Each season they have to choose ONE sport/one team that season. Last year my second son wanted to play Classic soccer AND travel basketball. We let him choose and he chose soccer. 
How do you juggle them all?
I can't. One of the most difficult things is knowing something has to give. Their dad and I are 2 people. There are four of them. Someone, somewhere could potentially play a game without a parent watching depending on the sport and season. One thing they have to be good with is that Mom and Dad can't be at every game. They all love sports enough that, for the most part, it's OK, but they really want us there if at all possible. (insert mommy guilt)
Why do you overbook yourself?
It was never my intention to spend every Spring and Fall of my 30's living out of my car, putting thousands of dollars of gas in my car, and getting my nutrients from fast food. We have allowed each of the boys to make the decision to play a sport. And because there are so darn many of them, I have painted myself into the proverbial corner. While I can limit the amount of teams per season the boys play for, I can't really eliminate the fact that there are 4 of them, so.... 

A Decision Based on the Boys

...but it may not be for everyone.
Yes, kids playing sports take away from family time. You fit in every meal together at home that you can. Family time is cherished all the greater. And, yes, it can be expensive. You learn to budget and smuggle in snack foods. (not recommended for high security tournaments) Yes, it's stressful. Hell, parenting is stressful. At least sports can be a means to release some tension by cheering on your team or yelling at that super annoying parent who won't shut up. You make the best of it and you do it for your kids. Many parents seem to lose sight of that. Once the parent realizes they are out there because THEY want to be and not because it's their kids choice, it's time to reassess the madness.
My oldest son is now a sophomore in college. He will continue to play his beloved basketball this winter for his school. For him, basketball was a means to get a scholarship to a school that offered his major and the opportunity to continue to play the sport he has loved since he was a little boy. I can only hope his 3 brothers will be as lucky to be given the same opportunity.
Are my children going to play for the MLS, MLB, NFL or NBA one day? No. Sports is an avenue for them to learn the importance of team work, channel their drive and determination, work hard, accept defeat, and dream big... all things essential to life off the field as well. In the real world, we have to be able to work well with others, even in the most stressful of situations. One needs drive, determination, and hard work to make it through college as well as a career. Also, we all must accept the plateaus in life to truly appreciate the peaks. And, lastly, in life, you must have dreams and goals.
In sports, we hope for the "W". In life, we can only hope that when the last second ticks away, we were victorious in living a happy, full life from the starting tip off to the final buzzer. The more chaos from start to finish, the sweeter the victory in the end.