Balancing Sports and Extracurricular Activities
As we move into winter, I have been spending my free time researching sports classes and extracurricular activities my kids will be doing this season.
I hadn’t planned it this way. I am a former Sports Mom, think stage mom of all things sports and after school, and this would be me. My mother never pushed my sisters and me to do sports. But my father was outdoorsy, and we did everything from track and skateboarding to racquetball and volleyball. And when my oldest son was a toddler, I enrolled him in his first soccer class. Watching him and his teammates figure out where exactly the ball was to go and why they couldn’t tackle or eat the netting was adorable.
Then it got serious. As the kids became older, they became more passionate, which meant more practice time and all-around parent involvement wasn’t just for a Saturday morning -practice weekdays were required. After soccer, we did basketball, flag football and then gymnastics. My son excelled in gymnastics, and I started to think – Olympics. Gold! But he hated it. He felt he was being pushed too hard, and the truth is, he was.
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My youngest, who is autistic, had significant needs post-pandemic, requiring a lot of educational catch-ups and one on one time. And privately, as this ‘super sports mom,’ I was becoming unhinged with all that was on my plate. So we took some time off. This move was the best thing we could have done as a family. We focused on the youngest, his therapies and getting him into a specialty school. My oldest still participated in his afterschool activities, but as far as anything extra, we ceased it all for a bit. Having this time off also helped me get some perspective and realize it should always be about the kids and doing things they love.
And now, post-pandemic, post-time off, we are back. And here is why…we missed it. The practices, the running out the door early on Saturday mornings, even the snow days where I used to curse the weather as we trudged through the snow. But the truth is these kids wake up at dawn. Why not get out the door and be productive? And participating in a sport or an extracurricular activity has enormous benefits.
Participating in a sport or extracurricular activity helps our kids to learn to communicate better, something they lacked during the pandemic. I can’t think of a better way for them to work on their social skills and come together with a group of kids of the same age (some from different schools!) and be part of a team or fine-tune a craft. Also, activities are not just sports; this is New York, where art, dance, theater classes (and more!) are plentiful. I am excited and nervous about all the future running around and the evening practices. But we’re ready and prepared to go with the flow and enjoy the ride. See you there!
Here are a few tips I learned during our hiatus:
For kids old enough, keep them involved
I never asked my son what he wanted to do. When one activity wasn’t his thing, we just moved on to the next. I never considered that maybe he didn’t like sports. He was excelling in afterschool classes of theater and dance and yet I continued to put him in sports classes. During our year break, I stopped pushing, and now he lets me know what classes he would like to try.
Step back if you have overscheduled your kids
If the classes, activities or weekend sports leave you or your family feeling like you’re losing it, step back. This doesn’t mean quitting. Skip a game or two. Talk to the coach and tell them you’ll miss a few classes. Take some time to ask why this is not enjoyable. Finish the class if you can, set new limits and work within the limitations you set up for your family when choosing the next set of classes and activities.
Ease up during the classes and games
We need to lighten up as parents, and I am as guilty as the next. In the past, my husband was the assistant coach for my son’s soccer team, which put added pressure on my son. The games, especially if the team lost, could be intense. Have fun. It’s only worth the stress if you have a future NCAA player and your kid is determined to make this something more. Work on having a healthy sense of competitive balance, especially in sports, so your child sees you are happy, win or lose.
Know your bandwidth
Learning from past mistakes — I am scheduling classes and activities close to home and maybe mixing it up, some afterschool fun, a weekend here and there, or a one-off or two class.