I just pressed send on an email to the travel baseball commissioner for my son's baseball league. Over the past few weeks we've been talking about me being the head coach for the 8U travel baseball team. I agreed to do it last week, and we were working on tryout dates, and all the other details.
A choice to make
All the while I wasn't sure if my son, Jackson, really wanted to play travel baseball, just wanted another reason to hang out with his friends, or if he wanted to play basketball instead. Well after letting him know there was an opportunity to play travel basketball his face lit up. So, last night we went to work out with a potential travel basketball team.
When asked if he wanted to play travel basketball or travel baseball, there was no doubt in his answer. He wanted to hoop! So, with that I had to send that email saying I will no longer coach. I hated to do that because when I say "yes" to something I want to follow through.
What really matters
However, at the end of the day, this youth sports thing is about my kids. And my son never asked to play travel baseball, nor did he ask me to coach travel baseball. And if I wasn't going to be the baseball coach he probably wouldn't have ever considered it. Through the agonizing process of deciding which travel sport we'll be involved with, I learned some things about helping our kids choose which sports to play. You may be faced with similar decisions, so the lessons I learned may be able to help you as well.
1. Don't make a big deal about it
While I was agonizing over the commitment of coaching and where our son would best fit, it was the last thing on his mind. He was already set to play rec baseball, and if neither travel basketball or baseball came up it would not have made a difference to him. So, if your kids play multiple sports and there is a potential conflict between the two, don't make a big deal about. Let the choice happen naturally.
2. Determine what your family can handle
Before agreeing to coach either team I did my research. My son had no part in this piece. I checked out the program, the people involved, the culture, and most important the time commitment. We have three kids all involved in multiple sports and other activities. Plus a marriage to grow, and careers. I made sure we could fit it in without it dominating our lives. If the time commitment was too much or those other things didn't check out, it would have never been brought to our son's attention.
3. Ask, pay attention, and really listen
At the end of the day, the decision boiled down to what our son wanted to do. I wasn't sure how he was feeling about baseball, and honestly as I look back it could have been more of me trying to make it happen and hoping he grows to love it versus a natural love. But when asked about basketball there was zero doubt that he wanted to play. Maybe this point should be #1 on the list. Our son is someone who loves to please people, so he sometimes says "sure" or "okay" if that is what he thinks you want. But if you ask, pay close attention, and really listen they will tell you.
4. Make it about them, not you
I played basketball, baseball, and football growing up. I equally loved them all as a little league player. And didn't narrow down until I dropped football in the 8th grade, and chose to play basketball, not baseball, in college. My hopes have been that he follows a similar path. But he is already veering from that path. And that is perfectly fine. Make sure your deep personal feelings and hopes don't influence the decision, or cause you to try to influence him/her when you ask him/her. Make sure it is what they want, and be there to support as best you can.