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The Gazette KCRG
Posted June 2, 2012
When is it too much too early?

Saturday was a busy day for our family. The morning started with a morning trip to Tuma Soccer Complex just north of Cedar Rapids for an AYSO soccer practice and scrimmage for our five-year-old daughter. We then traveled across town for her tee-ball game at Cherry Hill Park in the SW side of town. We returned to Tuma for an early afternoon soccer game for our eight-year-old, who didn’t have a softball game or basketball camp scheduled for the day.

It was hectic and fun. Daughters shed shinguards and long socks for a ball cap and a short socks, or vice versa, in car rides to each park.

This is not unusual for parents with kids of any age and in any sports season. Countless weekends for countless families are stocked with athletic events, practices or workouts. I know many parents have more children participate in more activities in one day. It can be very entertaining at times for parents and children alike.

My wife and I have always held the mindset that we want our daughters to learn the qualities associated with being on a team, exposure to competition and developing a love to be active. The question that surfaces, at least in my mind, when is it too much too early.

Our five-year-old tried soccer and let us know she did not want to sign up for the fall season. She wants to take Karate classes. I wish it was always this cut-and-dry.

For some sons and daughters, it’s hard to tell mom and dad “no” for an answer. For some parents, probably even myself, it’s hard to accept “no” for many reasons. Our eight-year-old will be playing basketball, soccer, softball, swimming and wants to learn to golf. Let’s not forget school activities and Girl Scouts. She insists she wants to do them all.

It isn’t unprecedented. When I was about her age, I played Jane Boyd Baseball, Five Seasons League Soccer, took swimming and golf lessons (although I never really learned how to swim without a kick board) and wrestled. basketball and football later joined the equation. I WANTED to do all those things. Long before eating pizza on a couch, watching “Deadliest Catch” and napping seemed like a perfect day.

I’ve certainly covered many athletes, who started a respective sport early, and were full-throttle from the start. I know of a group of guys that played countless hours of baseball in a park on the SE side of town for hours on end because they loved it so much. That was in addition to the the leagues they may have been playing in at the time.

So, as a parent, do you let them continue to pile on activities or try to ration out the experiences? We’ve already entered into a zone that includes off-season camps. I never attended a summer football camp until high school, although I recall going to a few summer wrestling camps before attending Cedar Rapids Washington.

Summer camps for an eight-year-old seem bizarre to me. It reminds me of actually listening to someone who told a parent of his youth baseball league that his seven-year-old son should learn to specialize positions, because “he could be a starting catcher when he is in high school or be one of six shortstops.” Can’t tell you how much that sickened me, because I had a father who coached youth baseball with a passion to teach the kids the game – the whole game to each.

If you subscribe to the, “it’s providing them the best chance to succeed in the future” line of thought, that is fine. Putting the cart in front of the horse, isn’t it? This doesn’t necessarily include the overzealous parents trying to relive their glory days by pushing their kids to the brink. Think of this, however, how many college students switch majors or end up working in fields totally outside of their field of study? Now apply that to someone more than half their age with something that isn’t so immediately important. To each their own, I suppose.

Sports can equip a young person with so many intangibles. It definitely has physical benefits. The word “can’t” or “quit” are forbidden in our home. I never want to be one who tells my kids they can’t do something, but is that the same as making sure they have the ability to enjoy specific activities without the burden of an overwhelming schedule.

Is two, three, four, five athletic activities too many in a six-month time frame for someone who hasn’t reached double-digit ages? Should it be specialized? Should it be limitless? I don’t subscribe to either, but I don’t know if I have the answer. Guess I will have to trust that two young girls can communicate an honest answer to me and support them in any way possible.

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