My child is on a competitive sports team. There I said it. She’s 10 and we travel (sometimes long distances) to watch her team take the mat for two full minutes. I know a lot of people who think this is absurd. Sometimes I’m even a little embarrassed to admit it. But we love it. We think she’s benefitted from it. And it’s created some really fun memories for our family.
Don’t get me wrong. I know I’m not alone here. Lots of my friends are in the same boat, whether it’s soccer, baseball, Tae Kwon Do or gymnastics. Club sports and “select” teams have become part of our American culture. Start them early. Train them hard. Go all in! But if we’re honest, most of us have had that moment when we say, “What in the world are we doing?”
I think it’s a balancing act – just like everything else we do as parents. My youngest child has developed great confidence from setting goals and working hard to achieve them. She understands and appreciates what her little body is capable of and she loves being strong (she and her friends have a motto….strong is the new pretty!). In her sport she’s also required to depend on team members to succeed. Another great life lesson. I try to focus on all these positives when I’m looking at my savings account and wondering why we can’t afford the new living room furniture I want.
But this week I also had a moment that served as a big wake up call. One night at practice, she hurt her ankle when she was landing a tumbling skill (Ok, I was going to hold out on y’all…but her sport is competitive cheerleading. Yes – it’s a sport!!). I felt panicked that she might have broken it, but not because it would hurt or require x-rays and doctor visits. Oh no! I was panicked because I was afraid she was going to miss the next night’s practice and (heaven forbid) risk not being ready for the next competition. I texted a doctor friend of mine who owns physical therapy clinics and asked if he thought I should send her to practice. His reply served as a huge “aha” moment for me:
“Resting is never a bad idea for an injury especially in kids. I have this conversation daily with parents and here’s my common answer: She is not preparing for a once in a lifetime playoff game. She is not getting paid. She does not have a scholarship opportunity hinging on this practice. Rest is never a bad idea.”
Well said Dr. Ward! Sometimes we push them too hard. Sometimes we expect too much. Sometimes we let it get too intense. Remember (and I’m talking to myself here) it’s all about balance. Learning to handle victory and defeat through competition is good. Developing self-discipline and work ethic is good. Finding a passion that leads to joy and great friendships is good. But let’s be honest, when it stops being fun and feels more like a job; when we’re spending more money on hotel rooms and concession stand food than we are on saving for college; when it makes you question your sanity….it may be time to reevaluate. Can I hear an amen?