Home » Successful Sports Parenting Channel » Survival Skills Center » Balancing Sports & Family » Balancing Sports With Family: A High Wire Act For Many

Balancing Sports With Family: A High Wire Act For Many

Parenting shouldn't be a competitive sport

Extreme Commitment

Such research is supported by plenty of anecdotal evidence of an unhealthy imbalance as well. As one journalist, writing about youth hockey in Canada, put it, most "teams now demand commitment worthy of the Marine Corps. Nothing short of a death in the family can justify missing a game or practice. Christmases are often taken over by tournaments. Weekends are swallowed whole. Family dinners are disrupted. It can be an all-consuming commitment."

Consider just a few examples of how far things have gotten out of kilter:

  • A child was benched because he skipped the team's practice to be with his family on Christmas Eve.

  • When one mom, fed up with the grueling schedule her son's football coach set for her son (including weekends), asked him "What about church?" He replied, "Football is church." (Indeed, one church in Michigan has begun holding worship services on a soccer field on Sundays before games).

  • A 12 year old hockey player trained 300 days a year, attended seven summer hockey camps, and traveled 4,500 miles a year to compete, while his parents spent $6,000 per year on equipment, ice time, and hotels.

  • A survey of participants at an elite youth tennis tournament in Miami, Florida found that seven in ten of the parents were spending more than $5,000 per year on tennis practices, and a third were spending over $10,000 per year;

  • One Texas mother spent $15,000 annually on cheerleading training for her 8-year old daughter; and

  • A Connecticut mother, in the midst of a divorce, took out a second mortgage to buy her 17-year old daughter a horse and have it flown from New Zealand to US and reported spending $50,000 annually for her daughter to compete in equestrian events.

Is this the kind of life our kids want? Not surprisingly, the answer is no:

  • A 1997 survey in The Boston Globe found that seven out of ten girls between the ages of 9 and 16 said they preferred playing sports with friends on the playground to organized sports. A slight majority of boys felt the same way.

  • From 1965 to the late 1980's, the time the average American child spent with his or her parents dropped by 43%. Other studies show that parents spend eleven hours less a week (about 90 minutes a day) with their teenagers, that the average mother spends less than a half hour per day talking with her teens.

  • Only six in ten fifteen- and sixteen-year olds regularly eat dinner with their parents. Yet in survey after survey adolescents lament the lack of parental attention and say they want to spend more time with their parents, not less.

It isn't even the kind of life we want: More than eight in ten of mothers in one recent national survey said they wanted more time to spend on personal and family relationships.

The bottom line is that there is plenty of reasons to find a balance between sports and family: it's what kids want and it's what parents want.


Adapted from the book, Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (HarperCollins 2006) by Brooke de Lench.

 Want to discuss this article or ask other parents questions? Join us in the forums!  

Now Available in KINDLE