Basketball, baseball, tee ball, flag football, track, and sometimes soccer. This is the season our family has entered into. I grew up playing and absolutely loving sports, and our three kids are becoming chips of the old block. The only exception is I "only" played basketball, baseball, and football as a youth athlete. My kids play all of the above, and one of them wants to take karate, and all of them want to swim. But what I've learned is we are not the only families with lifestyles similar.
More opportunities equal more challenges
While my parents had two of the three of us kids playing sports, and "just" basketball, baseball, and football. Many parents have multiple kids playing multiple sports. And if that wasn't challenging enough many of these sports can be played year round through travel, club, or AAU teams. For us this season is just beginning. Our daughter is now 13, and although she no longer plays soccer, her homeschooling travel basketball team may go 6+ hours away to play many games. Her track club will travel a few hours to compete as well. And she just happens to be into the performing arts (acting, dancing, modeling). Our 8-year-old son started a few years ago, and now he has a regular rotation of basketball a couple times per year, baseball, football, and it seems every other season he wants to play soccer. Our 4-year-old son starts the "circuit" this year and wants to play everything his older brother and sister play!
A better way to balance these opportunities
I'm constantly thinking how are we going to manage and afford all this! It forced me to sit down and think things through. I've taken into account the differences in sheer opportunity our kids have today, and how my parents managed. In addition, I've spoken to other parents and observed the good and bad of how they balance it all. During this process I've pulled out a few nuggets that we'll use to help us balance multiple kids playing multiple sports, and can do the same for you.
5 ways to balance multiple kids playing multiple sports
- Determine the "why" your kids playing youth sports. You and your kids why will determine your level of involvement and how you will approach it all. And the "why" should in no shape or form have anything do to with you as the parent. It is first and foremost about the kids. If that is not the case you may need to reevaluate it all.
- Be open minded. Your kid may have no athletic ability, or may turn out to be the next Michael Phelps. You have to be able to accept either. If sports end up not being their thing don't force it, if they show great potential to be great, then you may have to hire a private coach, and sacrifice your time help them pursue their dreams.
- Determine how much time can be devoted. This may happen before or after point #2, but it needs to be set. If you can devote 10 hours per week, then devote your 10. Just make sure you don't steal time from other areas of their development and your relationships. For instance don't neglect your marriage, or your work responsibilities.
- Count the cost. Being involved in sports can cost a little to a lot. Your budget may dictate what you can and cannot do. Do your best to consider all the costs that may be involved. Not just league or team fees, but equipment, travel, and training. I learned this the hard way. Early on I only asked "what's the registration fee?" Then I learned to ask about travel, membership fees for certain tournaments, and of course shoes and gear which our kids seem to grow out of too quickly. If you are serious you may want to estimate how much it will all cost for a year, divide that number by 12, and add it to your monthly budget. Beware of "sticker shock" the first time you do that.
- Make sure you are on the same page. I am all into sports, but my wife isn't so much. To her some of this stuff is over the top and she just can't see it like I do. To me it is just what you do. It has presented some challenges in our relationship. Now that we know we are better able to handle. We've both moved more toward the "center" to achieve some sort of balance.
Those are just a few ideas to help you balance multiple kids playing multiple sports. I know there are plenty more great ideas, and insight from those of you who are in it, or have been in it. Please share your ideas and insight in the comment section below. What has worked for you in balancing multiple kids playing multiple sports? Jackie Bledsoe, Jr. is a sports parent of three, and writes on sports parenting. He has played sports for over 30 years, including the collegiate level, and coached youth sports for the past eight years.
Photo credit: Jackie Bledsoe, Jr.