Saying NO to Summer Sports

The Little League season was just wrapping up and the fantastically brief (thank God) playoffs were days away when the questions started coming at me, rapid-fire, while I sat on the metal bleachers or leaned against the chain-link fence behind home plate or lingered in the dugout area: Is your son playing summer baseball?

 

My reply, “Nope, the kids aren’t playing any sports this summer,” typically evoked mystified stares and question marks floating in cartoon-like bubbles over people’s heads. How could I, a parent with a son in Little League, opt to NOT sign him up to play baseball games from now ‘til early August, the month in which (give me strength) the youth sports season starts again? What was WRONG with me? the parents seemed to be thinking.

 

Summer baseball is a growing phenomenon in my suburban Boston town and its popularity seems to be blossoming in light of the successes of previous teams. But my decision to go against the grain and my statement that not only will my 9-year-old be sitting out summer ball, but my 12-year-old twins won’t be playing any sports over the summer either, makes me a quasi sports mom anarchist.

 

I often respond to the inquiries by saying that after lugging the children around to practices and games for 10 months out of the year - each kid plays on a single team per season, though my 9-year-old’s hockey “season” runs unmercifully from August to April and slightly overlaps with baseball - I personally need to take two months off from youth sports. I don’t want to see our summer evenings and any vacation plans we might want to enjoy as a family sacrificed for time spent, miserable, at games on a dusty field in 90-degree heat and high humidity and where dinner is cruddy take-out because I didn’t have the chance to go grocery shopping between the work I have to do and the kids’ sports schedules, because if I allow one kid to play a summer sport, all three would want to. It’s only fair. Call me an anti-sports mom if you will, but that’s not my idea of hot fun in the summertime.

 

This outsized, play-youth-sports-all-the-time pressure isn’t simply restricted to baseball, here in the land of Red Sox Nation. There has been pressure for my twin soccer players to play on multiple soccer teams, the recreational town team plus pricey club teams and, in the winter, indoor soccer teams. I’ve resisted and told them the kiddos that can’t play consecutive seasons of the same sport back-to-back (hence my major problem with the fact that the hockey season lasts for-freakin’-ever). When it comes to baseball, some children not only play spring and summer baseball through our town, but also join a private club baseball team. Many children play multiple sports in a single season, even when there’s more than one kid in the household.

 

ChristineAKAMom
06.29.11

AMEN! I subscribe to the same thinking. We do not participate in organized sports in the summer. The kids do a couple different weeks of day camps - but no full season commitments.

Not to mention, I have this thing about commitment to activities you sign up for. With summer vacations, it's a guarantee that we'd miss a number of the practices and games if we signed up for a sport. I don't think it's right to make a commitment to a team and knowing you will not meet that commitment.

pt33333
06.29.11

Good for you! My children are also not playing sports or participating in any outside activities other than my son's once-a-week guitar lesson. It is so great not having to skip vacations or weekends at our seasonal camp because of practices or games. This is the first year that my son (now in high school) played only school sports, so didn't sign up for Little League. The great part was school sports finished with school. Little League would still be going until mid-July and then tournament play until August. Too many times in previous years, we adjusted our plans or gave up weekends away only to have practices or games cancelled or rescheduled at the last minute anyway. And it always seemed that all of the nice days that we could have spent at the beach or other day trips always ended up being bad weather and all the good days were taken up with sports.

We're still managing to stay active. But, now we get to do a variety of activities on our own schedule instead of our time being dictated by a league schedule.

mom2cne
06.28.11

My kids (2 of them) are allowed to go through and pick one activity, from our park departments guide, each session. Most sessions run 6 weeks and then they can pick something else or the same thing again. Last year, my daughter took TKD for 12 weeks and a pottery class for 6. She couldn't find anything she wanted to do in the spring so she took it off. My son elected to do community theater (which runs 8-10 weeks) twice as his only activities for the year. This summer, he is taking guitar lessons once a week, she is taking singing lessons once a week and they both took a week long pottery class. That is just more than enough for 2 kids.

JennyOndioline
06.28.11

Initially, when I read the headline of this article, my thought was "Aren't those kids going to be bored out of their skulls without structured activity?!" Then I thought about it, and read the article, and came to the conclusion that this mom is totally doing the right thing. Kids need downtime from structured activities, and summer's a great time to give them that. I know a lot of parents whose kids don't do any activities during the summer, and neither do mine when we have travel plans. Provided the kids get outside and engage in physical activity it's great to let them set their own agendas. When I was a kid we played outside all summer with minimal adult supervision -- there was very little structured activity. We played games, working out our conflicts amongst ourselves. It's a good way for kids to learn to communicate and negotiate. Additionally, Richard Louv's "Last Child In the Woods" makes quite a case for letting kids explore in nature on their own. Giving kids 2 months to do so makes a lot of sense, IMHO.

cmackie62
06.28.11

I totally agree -- even though my 9-year-old daughter is in the midst of summer softball (also in a Boston suburb). Back in the spring, she expressed an interest in playing, so my husband (her coach) signed her up. I didn't agree with this plan -- I wanted to have carefree summer nights where dinners weren't sandwiches running out the door, and we didn't go scrambling for her uniform, socks and cleats. Because of our snow days, this year's summer baseball start seemed more stressful because the kids were still in school. She IS having fun playing (thank goodness), but is exhausted on game nights. It'll get worse once she starts summer camp in a couple of weeks. Next year, I'll hold my ground and convince her to take a break so that she knows what it feels like to NOT play and have some downtime in the evening.

AmyF
06.28.11

I'm the same way. As soon as soccer and softball end in the spring, everybody is talking about swimming here. It even starts before school gets out and then there are practices every morning ALL summer. AND the parents have to have jobs at the swim meets that last four hours long. Summer is not only my kid's break from school, but my break from all the after school chaos. I just want to chill out. My kids are good swimmers since we take them to the pool a lot and they just swim for fun.

Our nights are so nice right now without all the required events. My daughter does have one informal soccer practice a week, but it is optional and the parents play too, so it feels more like fun than a requirement anyway.

Kids need a break, so they don't get burnt out and they need to learn that their parents' lives are important too.

Amy
Working Mom to 3
www.sofiabean.com