While I Sit and Wait…

I’m sitting here watching my daughter at gymnastics and can’t help but wonder…

Are kids being pushed TOO hard to be more, do more and compete more? Just wondering. I’m going to pull the ‘old lady’ card again. MAN! I swore when I was a kid I would NEVER say…”when I was your age…” But here goes:

When I was a kid, we played sports with our friends, after school or in summer recreation leagues (note the word “recreation”). We played sports on the weekends ONLY when we decided to play a game of pick-up ‘whatever’ in someone’s driveway or backyard. RARELY did we have a school-organized weekend game or tournament. A “travel team” meant that our moms drove us to someone else’s house to play for the day.  In school, we were encouraged to play multiple sports, because when one sport season ended, it was over – until next year. We had practices for an hour or so after school and 1-2 games/week during the season. I feel like we just had more free time. We had time to call friends and neighbors over on weeknights and weekends, to play ‘kick the can’ and ‘ghosts in the graveyard’. Sure, we played sports, but we also just PLAYED!

So back to gymnastics for a minute. We’re trying a new gym that’s a little closer to our house, but I’m not so sure we’re going to stick around. This place is run sort of like a military style boot-camp, which I’m not so sure is what my 7-year-old daughter had in mind. You see, she has natural ability. She’s incredibly, disgustingly flexible, and she thinks it’s FUN to tumble around the backyard and down the hallway and everywhere! But this is the type of place that could quickly make a kid forget that they ever thought gymnastics was fun. And that is precisely what I DON’T want!

Obviously, physical exercise and health are very important to me and my family, but not at the expense of family time, and free time. I want them to be able to enjoy physical fitness, doing what they find fun, exploring their talents, etc…but I don’t plan on any of my kids getting ‘free rides’ to college on a sports scholarship OR becoming professional athletes. Certainly, if that IS what they wanted to pursue, I’d be their biggest fan! But, I don’t think a young kid has all of that in mind when they join a gymnastics class or a pee wee soccer team. I just want my kids to be active, get exercise and have fun. Whether that’s in a gym, a field or our backyard.

I hear a lot conversations that go on between parents in the waiting room, or on the bleachers. Parents are already discussing the fact that “Abby” will never make it on the high school cheer team unless she gets started – at the ripe old age of 3-  in this competitive gymnastics class. Or that “Bobby” won’t make the school team unless he plays the travel team over the summer. And even then…it’s NO guarantee! The competition has never been more fierce than it is now!

We didn’t have travel teams, or off-season conditioning. We didn’t have to limit ourselves to playing one sport either. Now, it seems a kid has to pick a sport and devote their entire life to being a STAR at it! They practice after school, sometimes before school, and on the weekends, all year round! Even Mother’s Day isn’t sacred anymore! If you’re a mom, with a kid in a sport…you’re going to a tournament on Mother’s Day…and you’re going to be there ALL day! And it’ll probably be freezing and rainy! Happy Mother’s Day! 🙂 When one season wraps up, they’re on to a travel team, and then it starts all over! Parents are buying RVs to follow these kids around the country! What about free time? What about time to just be a kid, hang out and play!

Having been involved in team sports my entire childhood, I DEFINITELY see the value in playing team sports. Kids DO learn a lot about teamwork, dedication, reliability, being a good sport, winning, losing, etc…And it’s fun to be part of a team! I just wonder if we’re not sucking some of the fun out of it with all of the pressure that kids feel to be better, do more and WIN!

I dunno…the jury is still out on this gymnastics class. But if she says, it’s not fun…we’re outta here! I know there’s a lot of people who disagree with me about all of this, but it’s just something I think about and talk about. What are your thoughts about it? I’d love to hear.

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