Monday, 27 August 2012

Kids in sport: how active is too active?

Kids sports, kids activities, sports, active

Coming off the final weekend of summer sports, which involved three tournaments for two different sports in three separate locations at overlapping times, I find myself wondering: how much is too much?

A lot of people thought we'd overdone it when we told them the kids' summer sports schedule - four evenings a week between the two boys and often a Saturday morning practice, plus tournaments. And I've read a number of articles lately lamenting the plight of the over-scheduled child and heard many remarks about "too many activities, too little time to just be a kid." While I couldn't agree more if we're talking about the fourth-grader who goes from school to karate to piano lessons to hockey practice all year round, I simply don't think that applies in the summertime.

During the school year, the school day is the kids' structured time. That's when they get their socialization time with other kids, a little physical activity during recess and gym, and their days are completely scheduled and organized for them. Throw in a Wednesday evening swimming lesson and Saturday morning indoor soccer and that's probably enough. But it's an entirely different story when we're talking about the summer.

My kids spend their summers at home with me. Their days are far from scheduled - I mean, we follow a loose routine, there's a breakfast-and-board-games, backyard play, bike-rides-after-lunch, splash pad/park/library sort of loop to our summer weekdays - but we also have days when we have ice cream sundaes for breakfast and stay in our jammies until three o'clock in the afternoon. When a quick watering of the garden turns into four hours of sprinklers and bubbles and watergun fights. When we get distracted in the basement playroom en route to the backyard and kill an entire afternoon playing Lego. When a brisk morning walk turns into a meandering, all-day explore through the trails of the local arboretum and ravine.

Our days aren't very scheduled.

So I don't feel like a sport in the evening is too much. It's the only time of day that we actually have to be anywhere at any particular time, and I think it's important to keep that. Because at no other point in their lives will they ever again have endless stretches of weeks and months without school, jobs, appointments, meetings, commitments, places to be and people to see, when time actually has no meaning whatsoever.

On top of which, of course, there are the myriad other benefits of sport: socialization with other kids of the same age group (I'm Mom, and I may be fun for a Mom, but let's face it - I'm still Mom. I'm old.) the discipline of learning and following rules, having to listen to and respect adults other than parents and teachers, the health benefits of a physically active lifestyle, teamwork and fair play and competition and winning and losing.

I think sport is incredibly important to a healthy, well-rounded childhood. And I have a hard time believing that my child, running up and down the field dripping in hard-earned sweat and calling for his teammate to pass the ball, or searching out my eyes from across the diamond to make sure I saw that hit, a huge grin plastered across his face, is getting less of a chance to "just be a kid" than the one sitting on the couch playing video games.

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