I read a comment on the internet the other day that said no kids should ever be allowed to play high level competitive sports until they are older. The gist of it was kids should only play house league when they are young.
I am in the (maybe not so) unique position of being the mom to one son who is an elite athlete and one who loves to dabble in a whole bunch of different sports.
My older son, who is now a teenager, has been short track speed skating since he was 8-years-old. Three years ago he started competing at the Provincial level which meant a bigger commitment from him and us.
My younger son is a tween and has dabbled in house league sports since he was 3-years-old.
Just for perspective, this is a brief overview of what both boys are doing:
When my older son started short track speed skating we had no idea how much he’d grow to love it. In the beginning he was on the ice once a week and we took him to the occasional one day speed skating meet – it starts at 8:00 a.m. and you’re out by about 4:00 p.m.
In his second year he moved to twice a week practices, but still participated in one day meets – about six per year.
When he moved up to the provincial level, the commitment also changed. During the skating season, he was now required to be training on-ice three days a week for an hour and a half each session and one day of off-ice training. There are approximately six speed skating meets per season, each being two days long.
In the past year he’s added more off-ice training to his regime so he is essentially working out six days a week.
My younger son has always loved to try new things and played soccer, baseball, hockey, three-on-three, gymnastics, took a turn at tumbling, and is currently back to soccer again. This is a commitment of two evenings a week, one hour each.
Both of these choices are 100% fine with me. They are completely different human beings with different interests, personalities, and the way they approach life. What’s awesome is that both are learning lessons no matter what level of sport they wish to compete in.
I’m by no means an expert and have made my fair share of mistakes when it comes to parenting both of my kids. But over the years of watching my sons play sports at different levels I’ve seen the great side of sports where parents offer an amazing amount of encouragement and support.
I’ve also seen a very shitty side where parents berate their kids for losing, yell, call them names, force them to do drills, drills, and more drills, and more - even in house league. (If you want to see a scary example of this watch the documentary "Trophy Kids" on Netflix).
So how do you even determine if your child is up to participating in a high level competitive sport?
Obviously that answer is up to your child and it has a lot to do with personality but I also think it’s important that parents ask themselves this question.
Is this your dream or your child’s dream?
Speed skating is what my son loves to do and I’m invested in helping him achieve his goals, but I’m not invested in his wins or losses simply because his wins are not my wins and his losses are not my losses. He is there to give it his all, I am there to offer my support or occasionally give him a little shot of reality when it’s needed. I would feel like a failure as a parent if he ever felt that my pride for him was in any way related to how he placed in a race (or in a hockey game, or soccer game, or whatever the sport is.)
You the parent are fully involved when your child chooses to play in a high level competitive sport through your time, money, emotional and sometimes physical support but at the end of the day, it’s your child who is putting in the work.
And if it’s your dream to make your child the best, and it’s not your child’s dream, it’s not going to happen. And if it does, it’s going to come at a very high price.
One that has nothing to do with money.