Youth sports have really evolved over the last couple decades, growing from limited, seasonal sport opportunities to today’s landscape that offers just about every sport continuously throughout the year. What this means is that your child has more opportunities to play sports, and can (in theory) play one or more sports throughout the entire calendar year. As with most things in life, there are advantages and disadvantages with so many sport opportunities offered so regularly.
The good news
On the surface, what’s wrong with having countless sport opportunities always available to your child? If your child loves a sport, there is a good chance she can play that sport as much as she likes (indoor and outdoor). Some advantages to having sports always available include:
- Ongoing physical benefits of exercise.
- Cognitive and emotional development from being on a team (leadership experience, too).
- A busy sports schedule prevents kids from spending time doing other, less productive and/or dangerous things.
- Better chance for advanced skill development, and possibly a college athletic scholarship later on as a result.
There is no doubt that with proper adult guidance and oversight kids can really benefit from having unlimited sport opportunities at their disposal. For kids who play travel sports, entire families can enjoy visiting different cities and meeting countless new friends through sport opportunities — additional benefits from having sports offered all year long.
The potential negative concerns
There are no free rides in life, however, and when kids become deeply invested in their sport(s) there are many pitfalls to be aware of and avoid. Remember, there are only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, so time management of the super-busy sports kid will always be a concern. Additional worries include:
- The chances for sport injuries increase the more your child plays sports.
- Sports burnout is another serious mental health issue that happens more frequently as your child plays more sports.
- Some kids who are challenged with time management issues trying to balance school requirements and expectations while committing the time needed to their sport(s). This issue becomes amplified for kids who choose to play multiple sports during the same season.
- As kids commit to more sports (or more serious levels of one sport) other important life opportunities and experiences may be compromised, including clubs, activities, and even family vacations.
Develop a family game plan
Because there are so many opportunities to play one (or multiple) sports throughout the year, it is important that families communicate regularly about how much to be involved with youth sports. Keep in mind that depending on the age of your child, he might not be mature enough to fully understand the potential concerns relating to playing sports too much (including burnout, injuries, and other missed opportunities). As a parent it’s important to talk about both the pros and cons of playing sports year-round, and commit to regularly reviewing your decision to see if modifications will be necessary in the future.
There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to your child’s involvement in youth sports, nor is there a one-size-fits-all model to follow. As you can see, there are many moving parts and real-life consequences to consider while making these decisions, so be sure to look at things carefully.
For more help with sports parenting check out The Parents Playbook or these other helpful resources.