“Summer’s here, I’m for that…it’s my favorite time of the year and I’m glad that it’s here.” -James Taylor, “Summer’s Here”
Remember summer days floating in the pool, making clover chains, catching lightning bugs? Other families travelled to Yellowstone, or to the beach for some deep sea fishing or collecting shells. Whatever one’s choice, summer provided time to let down for some uninterrupted play time. And I don’t mean organized play time.
With successive generations, families have chosen waterparks, Disney Cruises, international travel to exotic locations, educational tours, and faraway adventures. Is it our modern nature to keep upping the ante until all the resources of time and expendable monies are exhausted, as well as the family? Rest is a key element for individuals and families. Be mindful that recreation may or may not include rest.
Now add the pressures of navigating summer schedules related to children’s participation in organized sports. Parents are asking themselves, “Does the schedule ever let up? Should we take the opportunity to play tournament baseball and/or basketball in the summer? If we don’t, is our child going to be behind in the fall? How many sports camps should we sign up for? Should we invest in professional instruction? How often should we go to the batting cage? What do you mean the first practice of the season is set for July? Are there penalties for missing a couple of those?” And the list goes on.
Even if you take that vacation, will the coach send a list of workouts to recover lost practice time? I remember one trip we took when the coach strongly suggested that we find a facility for our young gymnast while we were vacationing in another state, so she would not miss training time. Another time, when we brought my daughter’s friend along, we had to locate a suitable place for her track workouts.
It may seem like the path of least resistance is to give up on the family vacation, and any semblance of getting away just to relax. I believe the greater pressure rests on parents of younger athletes who do not yet know if the stakes are too high for their child to alter her organized sports schedule. Will it be unrecoverable? In my very first post, I wrote about the dangers of eliminating time for unstructured play in the lives of young children. As Hara Marano has noted: unstructured play stimulates neurogenesis in the frontal cortex, which enhances the brain’s development and programming. Those are high stakes.
As young athletes grow into their respective sports with more focus and commitment, it is best to work together concerning these decisions. One summer my husband planned a fabulous summer trip to Jackson Hole. We stayed in rustic cabins, learned about Indian lore, met interesting people, rode horses, fished, rafted… all without our son. At the time he was a young teen, but he felt strongly about the commitment he had made to his competitive baseball team. The vacation conflicted with a tournament. We sought his input, and after listening to him, we were convinced he had thoughtfully considered the options. His preference was to stay home and play. To this day I have never heard him express a regret when the rest of the family reminisces about all the fun we had. We missed him. But I am convinced we made a sound decision at the time.
Balance continues to be the key in youth sports. Weighing the value of respite and restoration vs organized sports activities will always require collaboration, as it regards the timing, the family, and resources. That is why the primary partnership of youth sports, which includes athlete, parent, and coach, should be valued and nurtured. Each partner has a role to fulfill, roles which evolve over time. Shared communication and cooperation helps expedite decisions. Ultimately, decisions should be reached in the context of predetermined priorities, based on enduring values. Let this summer impact your lives in a positive way! Happy sailing!
- All human beings and especially children benefit from unstructured play.
- Choices regarding summer schedules for young athletes ideally include thoughtful consideration about priorities. These include rest, relationships, and resources in the context of enduring rewards.