Within the last generation or two, a surge of competitive sports has began taking over families everywhere. Mom vans, and carpools. Half time snacks and loads of laundry. Dinner through the drive thru and homework in the car. Early mornings and late nights. If you have been involved with a competitive sports team, like I was, this sounds familiar I’m sure.
For me it all started with rec soccer and toddler dance class. At a rapid rate, I was doing both competitively and my mom shuttled me to both (45 minutes across town from one another) daily. I kid you not–7 days a week. By high school I was playing on 3 competitive soccer teams and running track and field.
As a high schooler, I didn’t really know any other way of life. If I were to practice, train, and compete any less, I would be letting myself down for all I had worked for–becoming a collegiate athlete.
I made it there, division 1 soccer, but at what cost?
Playing on a competitive team molds us into hard working adults. Sports are fun, especially when we’re winning. We learn multitasking and time management skills. In order to succeed we must understand the importance of staying well-rounded in school as well as sports. Fitness is a given. Our teammates become more like family, and it builds our social skills. We are so busy there is no time to get into any trouble. Having the opportunity for some or all of a college education paid for is a definite plus.
Our sports always take precedence. (I had a coach call me at my grandma’s funeral to let me know how important it was I came to the event right after!) Our family time is spent mostly at sporting events and in the car. No time for church when tournaments fall on the weekends. It is expensive, and you have to commit to all or nothing. So make sure someone is working overtime to pay for those extra practice sessions and travel team trips! At some point we realize there is a life after sports and see our main identity feeling void.
Sports politics can be brutal, am I right? Tryouts bring out the absolute worst side of the parents. Comparison and bickering. We have all read the nasty posts some people will make, anonymously I must add, about a team in the same league and sometimes even name certain athletes. The pressure can literally cause a kid to crumble. Let’s not forget the fights between parent and athlete about the amount of effort being given into a sport they have also invested time, money, and energy into.
Competitive sports can be a sucking black hole. What starts off harmless can turn into a life and family controlling monster. You’ve been warned! So before you dedicate some of the most important years of your family’s life over to a sport, make sure to constantly be checking your priorities.
Sports may feel like everything to a competitive athlete, but as a former college athlete let me tell you, it isn’t everything. You are more than an athlete. You are a valuable person and have worth whether you are the captain or sitting on the sidelines with a sprained ankle. Let sports give life to you and never take it away. Let sports bring you and your family opportunities to grow closer together, not further apart. And finally, do not ever let your identity be bound up in a sport.
As parents or athletes, can we vow to stay in control of the sport and not let the sport be the one in control?
I’m interested to hear from you! What is the good, bad, and ugly you’ve seen in the competitive sports world?