In Defense of Sports

There’s an intense pressure on children (and, subsequently, their parents) on finding a sport in which they thrive and therefore to which they can devote all their extra time and energy (and parents’ money).

I forget the exact number, but something like 0.0005 percent of kids who play sports wind up being professional athletes. I read somewhere there’s more neurosurgeons in the country than professional athletes.

My kids have been playing sports since they were 5. They get to choose each fall and spring. My son initially took gymnastics and now is in karate year-round because he’s high-energy and needs that outlet. 

I love my children but they are not going to be professional athletes, no matter how often I tell them to put Mom in a fancy nursing home. 

This spring, my daughter is playing softball and my son is playing baseball. 

It’s expensive. It’s time-consuming. There’s lots of driving. There are group texts and snack responsibilities and rainouts and makeup games. We have sandwiches for dinner most nights in the spring.

But my kids get so much out of sports.

  • Self-confidence. The kids work hard at practice and games. My daughter had one hit all of last season and the look on her face was more than worth the hour it took me to drive through rush hour traffic to get to the game. My son can now throw the ball from third to first base. 
  • Team-building. They learn how to work together with other kids. In baseball and softball, if you’re not fielding the ball, you’re backing someone up. If you’re not hitting the ball, you’re cheering on the bench. My daughter’s softball team has songs for almost any situation.
  • Sharpened reflexes and mental skills. There are many things that need to happen simultaneously for a batter to hit a ball: driving the lower half of the body into the swing, judging the speed and location of the ball accurately, making contact. There’s also taking a line drive to the groin and acting as though it’s End of Days, which my son performed with skill and aplomb.
  • Coachability. You have no control over your kids’ skill. What you determine is how your kids use their skills and how they react to success and failure. Our coaches volunteer their time and patience to teach my children. I don’t agree with them all the time but I try to keep my mouth shut because I am not the coach and they deserve as much respect as teachers. No one likes to play outfield. But someone has to do it. And each year, my kids learn more.
  • Fun. They love to play! There is cheering and dirt and snacks after the game. I know some kids who are on tournament teams and play/train one sport year-round. There’s no way I’d do that unless my kid specifically requested it, and even then I’d have pause. I think it makes kids more susceptible to repeat stress injuries and then sports becomes like a job. This is not a criticism of parents/kids who choose to go this route; I’m just talking about my own offspring, who will probably be computer programmers later in life.
In Defense of Sports

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