The School Year Lies Before Us

“The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last for ever.”–E.B. White, Charlottes’s Web

August marks the beginning of the end of summer. For many, school has already begun, and summer’s vacation of mind, body, and soul is a fading memory. Students of all ages are processing what this new year might mean to them socially, academically, and athletically. Some have looked forward to this for several months, missing their friends, or in preparation for fall sports. Some have enjoyed a plethora of summer sporty activities including playing outside, tennis, swimming, golf, water skiing and more.

This year marks the first time some children will play an organized sport. What will be the choice? Will it be recreational, developmental, or competitive? Will it be on a pre-made roster put together by parents and parent coaches so that the players are already familiar? Or will there be a draft where rosters are formed by league commissioners and new friendships are on the horizon?

For some student athletes, this marks the first year involving a selection process by which he plays his sport. Whether it be school or a competitive league outside of school, the potential for disappointment resides alongside the exhilaration of making the cut, leading to a more competitive sports experience. Still others will take the risk to sample something new, a sport that they have never pursued before.

This may be the year where a student hangs up his cleats for something else entirely. By age 13, early middle school, 70% of children give up sports altogether. It is a disheartening statistic because this is the age where a meaningful team experience enhances life skills that a teenager needs and for which he is developmentally attuned. Perhaps, and this is a preferred option, some athletes will discover passion in another pursuit, the arts, debate, writing, but not instead of–rather, in addition to some physical activity/sport with others.

Whichever scenario represents your child, there is risk involved, as well as inherent possibilities for joy and growth. For the young athlete just getting her toes wet in the world of organized sports, hope is prevalent. You have very reason to expect that this will be a valuable experience for her and that she will enjoy it. Especially, if you approach it with low expectations. For the older athlete the risk exists for disappointment if she is not chosen. Parents who are proactive can make the most of this challenge, and the athlete can pivot with more ease toward a better fit. And for the young teen who makes a choice to follow another passion, celebrate along with him, but advocate for physical fitness in some form that he enjoys.

I have been a young teen, pursuing an athletic goal that was not met, making a transition to another activity with which I fell in love, but not without negative emotions. The selection process often blindsides a young athlete, because the possibility of not being chosen is remote in his mind. Wise parents will take the time beforehand to understand what the process will entail. Ideally there will be a discussion with your child about the chances of making the team, and possible alternatives if the outcome is not what was hoped for.

As children prepare for the current school year, parents, too, should prepare to support and encourage them for challenges they will face. The challenges include social, academic, and as we have explored, athletic. Intentionality can prevent unnecessary negative outcomes such as being blindsided which devastates some young athletes, and turns them off to sports. Wise parents use their own life experiences to frame disappointment as well as smooth the transition toward another endeavor. Who knows, this may be the fit that was meant to be!

KEY TIPS:

  • Parents should be aware that with the new school year come challenges for their children which include athletic choices.
  • Being proactive when children are selecting opportunities in sports can prevent disappointment from driving them away from sports altogether.

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