Yesterday was the second day of school. It was also the day that Nib had to choose between attending his first travel soccer practice or the tryout for the fall baseball travel team. (“But baseball is a spring sport?” you say, if you’re an adult and remember the days when every sport ran for about 2 ½ – 3 months and the rest was the “off-season.” Not anymore.)
AND SO IT BEGINS.
I’m not sure my kids fully grasp how different the World of Youth Sports & Activities is than when I was a kid. I’ve told them about how I played softball once a week and spent the other hundreds of hours of my free time playing in the nasty, damp, mosquito-invested “fort” my neighborhood friends and I created under my family’s deck. (If West Nile had been a thing back then, we’d be dead.) But they still don’t really get it. So, I wrote them this letter to tell them about it. And of course, I used the phrase, “When I was your age…” BECAUSE I RELISH BEING AN OLD LADY WHO ALSO USES WORDS LIKE “RELISH.”
WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE… (I just really think it works here) the World of Youth Sports & Activities was very different than it is now. It wasn’t even a “world,” it was just games you played with some friends in the same town, at your local field, maybe wearing the same color t-shirt… and then maybe throw in a dance class.
Sure, we had soccer, but I never played because get this – not EVERY KID tried soccer. I KNOW! I played softball, but it was a relaxed, weekly gathering of “Red” vs “Orange” and mostly an excuse to hang out with friends. I’m sure there were games and I’m pretty sure they all happened at the high school field one mile from my house. I was also a cheerleader for the Pee Wee football team and if I remember correctly, we practiced for one hour a week at the community center and then jumped around on the track during the Broncos football games on Saturday mornings.
My siblings had sports and activities, too so it wasn’t like we were sitting around playing Frogger all the time. (Google it.) Granted, I wasn’t a parent then and I also wasn’t a particularly overly-involved kid BUT in my memory, it was all much more relaxed. (More relaxed in the 70s? SHOCKING.)
Quick side note: last time I mentioned to my kids that I grew up in the 70s, HD said, “Wait, the 1870s??” #mymathgenes
OK, back to sports. Let’s break down where I see the biggest differences.
#1. The Quantity of Options. There is a seemingly endless supply of sport and activity choices available for young kids these days. Soccer, baseball/softball, football, ballet and gymnastics have always been around, but NOW we’ve added lacrosse, field hockey, ice hockey, martial arts, wrestling, flag football, hip hop and rugby to the mix… for 7-year-olds!
When I was a kid, I took a dance class that combined ballet, tap and BATON TWIRLING into one 45-minute class a week. Now, parents spend a fortune specializing for their six-year-olds. (Admittedly, I haven’t seen a baton twirling class lately, but then again I HAVEN’T REALLY LOOKED.)
Wait, what about the theater classes! When I was growing up, “drama” was just what happened when my Mom wouldn’t bring me to the mall. I don’t know anyone under the age of well, college, who took acting classes. Yet, just last week I signed HD up for a class called “Acting for Film & TV.” I’M NOT EVEN JOKING. HD is going to learn how to be a soap opera star.
(That means “shaking my head” for those of you 1,000 years older than me.)
#2. SEASONS. There are none anymore. ALL sports get played ALL year! The schedulers do their best to avoid conflicts, but some are inevitable. We try to prioritize the sport that would be “in season” if you guys were in high school, i.e. soccer in the fall, baseball in the spring but it’s not always possible. We’d love for you to be able to take a season off, but then we have to worry about you “falling behind” and not making the team the following season/year. This is really, really true. Nib tried lacrosse in second grade and didn’t like it because the Kindergartners and first graders in his group were already so much better than him.
#3. The Post-Travel Leagues. We have Rec sports. We have Travel sports. And now we have Premier leagues in sports like baseball and soccer. It’s very possible these always existed, and I was just never good enough to play on any of them but it’s all very complicated and I still don’t really understand how any of it works. All I know is that you have to drive even further for the practices, games and tournaments.
#4. The Schedules. Let’s break it down. This fall, HD has soccer practice on Tuesdays at 4:15, but it overlaps with CCD (religious ed) so we’re going to have to figure something out there. Nib and LO both have soccer practice on Wednesdays and Fridays but at different times in different places. HD has his Soap Opera class on Thursday afternoons at the same time as Nib’s practice and since I haven’t figured out the whole cloning thing yet, THAT’S gonna be tricky. (Is 9 years old too young for Uber?)
Nib also wants to play baseball so that’ll be practices two days a week, fingers crossed for Monday and Thursday. HD soccer game’s on Sat morning and the two older kids will also play on Saturdays in something called the CT Cup, which lasts until they lose. (Is it wrong to hope for a loss on week one? Asking for a friend.) Two more soccer games on Sunday and if the Nib makes the team, two baseball games as well. LO will start play practice soon and that schedule will change weekly. And then we have the occasional weekends that are consumed with tournaments and/or theater performances.
Quick PSA: Audiobooks. I like music and podcasts, but audio books have been the best discovery for the 8,491 hours I spend in the car all week.
#5. The Tournaments. There is more than one for every sport and just when you think you have your driving schedule and carpools in place, the tournament comes along and screws up your whole weekend. I posted this picture last year of what our calendar looked like during one soccer tournament weekend.
Kids, I know this sounds like I’m complaining but I’m not, really. We love that you guys are busy and active, and we are VERY, VERY fortunate to have all of this stuff available to us. Although, I will admit to being happy that none of you want to play ice hockey because I’ve heard those bags are super smelly.
You keep running and dribbling and singing and catching and kicking and acting and scoring and swinging and I’ll just keep driving. And cheering. And yelling inappropriately from the sidelines. Even though you hate that.
PS. Full disclosure, I did take an after-school enrichment class on CALLIGRAPHY when I was in fourth grade. I just really felt like I should admit that.