Chrstmas Spirit

Chrstmas Spirit
My wife and kids having a little holiday fun

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Good Problem to Have

I hope everyone is having a terrific day.  We are approaching another weekend where many of us will be involved watching our children play their various sports.  It's in this context that I will answer another parenting question.  Although the blog will focus on school age children, even if you have younger ones- pay attention.  You may be fortunate enough to have this problem one day. 

The dad, who I will call Mike, is married with 3 children.  The kids are doing great academically (mostly A's sprinkled with a B here and there).  Athletically, they are also doing well- especially the middle child (So far, it seems like I need Mike's advice).

Here are the concerns.  Mike's kids work extremely hard and he wants to know how to maximize their abilities without burning them out.  My interpretation of the email was he was especially worried about this happening athletically. Mike doesn't want to push his children to the breaking point.  He singled out his middle child who is very gifted. Mike wonders about this child playing sports with his age group because he would be so much better versus playing against older children so he wouldn't always be the best on his team. He's also wondering if there are burn out signs to look for.  My first reaction to this email was (I hope my readers are slowly enjoying a cup of coffee because this might take a while). 

Before you read on, please take a second to think how you would answer Mike's question.  If you would like to help Mike, feel free by adding a comment at the bottom.

I hope Mike along with all of my readers know I'm not one to tell people what to do (on most occasions) but I will give you some things to think about.  Therefore, I'm not going to tell Mike which age group he should allow his middle child to participate.  The point is I want Mike to make the best decision for his family.

Three questions came to my mind that Mike should answer in the privacy of his home.  What are the goals for the children?  What's the point?  Who's calling the shots?

What are the goals for the children?  By this I mean what does Mike hope to achieve when his children play sports?  Is it physical fitness, learning teamwork skills, an athletic scholorship, a professional career, etc?  Knowing the goals will help Mike choose a path.  For example, if his kids only played for fun, they wouldn't get burned out until it wasn't fun anymore.  Contrarily, an athletic scholorship requires a lot of drive, extra time on the ball fields, and a commitment to excellence.  When thinking about the goals, everyone had better be on board.  (Specifically Mike's wife and the children)

Understand, I don't mind how Mike's family approaches sports of choice as long as the children's grades remain high.  What troubles me is when I see parents who dog their kids repeatedly over a sport. It often means they are trying to get their kids to accomplish something in sports they didn't have the ability to accomplish.  Sports are supposed to be an outlet for the children- not the parents.  

What's the point?    Most parents (including myself) want to see their kids excel in sports- but why?  Is Mike looking for his children to develop self confidence, a sense of pride, and/or friendship with the other players?

Could there also be a slightly darker point?  I talk in depth in my book that some of my former coaches had only one point- winning.  We are talking about amateur athletics.  If a parent's or coaches sole point is to win, that could be a problem.  The pressure for any child to always win may be enough to drive him/her out of the sport.

I think Mike is safe if he genuinely didn't care how his kids performed in a sport as long as they tried their best and had fun.  Sometimes as a parent, it's wise to tell yourself to "back off" and it isn't easy-especially if your child excels.

Who's calling the shots?  I would like Mike to be as encouraging as he wants.  In the end though, let the children make up their mind on how far they want to go with sports.   The truth is there is only a miniscule chance the kids will be playing next to Kobe Bryant or Derek Jeter in the future.  More likely than not, the children will need to use their brains to earn the same things Mike has in life (a college degree, stable income, and great kids).

Derek JeterAs far as pushing kids to the breaking point and signs to look for, that's a bit tough for me because I don't think I've pushed a child that hard.  Therefore, I haven't seen it firsthand. Subtle changes in behavior or attitude may be something to watch for.  One question I would have for Mike is this. "Does quality time with your kids revolve around anything besides sports?"  Truthfully, if Mike does lots of activities outside sports with his kids, the odds of burning them out on sports would be minimal in my opinion. 

Keep this in mind as well.  If Mike is a strong authority figure in his house, I wouldn't expect his children to come to him and explain that they need a break or they no longer wanted to play a particular sport.  It probably wouldn't happen because of the mere possibility of disappointing their father.  That's why looking for more subtle changes is important.

Depending on their family dynamic, if Mike's wife happens to be more sensitive than him (as is the case in my home), she may be a valuable resource.  I believe Mike should consider expressing his concerns to her, explain he really needs her help, and tell her to let him know if the children are giving her some negative vibes.  This only will work though if Mike promises not to argue when she speaks up.  Any arguing could result in Mike losing the one resource that can help keep his fears in check.   

Let's get this straight as well.  As long as Mike continues to quietly monitor himself, it's less likely the kids will burn out.  Just by writing me this email, I have the feeling Mike is already accomplishing this. 

 I hope my general thoughts and questions help. I want Mike and all my readers to have all the fun you can watching your kids play the sports they love.  Be encouraging and only push as long as the children express an interest in being pushed.  It's a special time so savor every minute of it and allow your children to do the same thing!

If you happen to enjoy today's blog, please pass it around to some other parents who would like it as well.  Thanks so much!!!

On Monday, I'll be back with an education blog. There are several topics I have in mind.  Hopefully, it will be worth the wait.   


  1. I have 4 kids that are very involved in sports, in state out of state - you name it! My experience is that kids who play in a year-round, intensive sport usually burn out from that sport in 4-6 years. My kids have done that and then gone on to find other sports they are just as or even more passionate about. I let my kids drive the bus when it comes to this. I know I couldn't do laps in a pool for 2 hours without loving it and I don't expect my kids to do it just because I'm pushing them. I've seen dramatic changes in commitment, and success when I've let my kids either take a break from a sport or focus on a new sport. One of my kids was ranked in the top 16 in the state in swimming but he hated it - he switched to basketball and I think he is actually going to be more successful at this than swimming. Do what you love!

  2. My gifted 8 year old hates sports. But, I think as long as it is the choice of the child to participate, and as long as the child isn't pushed to be the best, the child won't burn out.

  3. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Glad to find out more about you too. I'll be sure to come back for some of your great advice.

  4. I can understand Mike's concern,from a athlete's perspective and from a step-parent to an extremely gifted two-sport son.
    I grew up a very talented swimmer,who trained for the 1980 Olympics and burned out before the trials for the 1984 Olympics at age 17. I even went as far as turning down college scholarships(which I regret) because I felt I missed out on the fun part of growing up. Now my parents did not push me into anything-it was my own drive to acheive. The one thing that was a perk was the discipline I have from balancing training and at that time schoolwork.

    I am seeing this in my stepson-the balance of school, friends, and two sports. This year,his freshman year of HS. is particularly a challenge. He is taking some academically challenging courses, was asked to play both QB and defense in football, and is getting ready for baseball. He was the most physically wiped after the football season than I have ever seen him. We do not push him, and don't want him to lose the joy of the sport, or miss out on the fun of growing up, or suffer academically.

    We tell him there is no greater joy for us than to see him out there having fun-it isn't how many TD's or HR's. Just the look of joy on his face.

    Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and for the lovely comment.

  5. Wow, I find it so interesting to hear the commentary of those who are dealing with school-aged children. It is good preparation for me!

  6. Wow, thanks for sharing this. I recently encountered a similar situation (not in sports) with my first grader where she expressed that things were too tough for her. It may have only been laziness on her part, but it taught me I have to back off a little. I had to seek out advice from someone else about what I could do to make it easier for her to see the choices that is right for her, without her feeling like it's being forced on her.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting.

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  10. First off I really enjoy your blog.

    I work as a school counselor and I see some kids who push themselves too hard and also get pushed by their parents. I like your question about what's the goal with sports b/c I think that will help Mike out a lot as long as that goal is similar to the child's goal.

    I always go back to these questions when I work with parents and kids:

    What kind of parent do you want to be and what kind of relationship do you want to have with your child?

    What kind of person do you hope your child to be?

    What do you need to do now to support these goals and is what you are doing now working?

    These same questions can be and should be asked to the child.

  11. Stopping by from the Saturday Hops to say hello.
    Have a great weekend!

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  14. My 2 cents...or 3 or 4...
    I feel like, 9 times out of 10, if a kid is burning out on extracurricular activities, it's due to the parents pushing them too hard. My kids are given the option, but I've never coerced them to try any activity. I've always followed their lead. So far, we've done soccer, choir, dance, and now Tae Kwon Do. My 12-year-old is now having to decide which she likes or choir, and my 14-year-old is having to choose between soccer and Tae Kwon Do. Whichever they choose, they can't change their minds. They have to finish the season/course, before they switch, if they choose to. Not only does that help out my pocketbook, it teaches them commitment, priority and responsibility.

  15. Well, I don't have any children of my own, but I am so happy to hear that there are parents out there that think about these things and are concerned enough about theior own children to prepare themselves to see signs of burnout. My own parents are great and always made sure to ask how my day was and keep a line of communication open. That was the best thing for me. As a child, I pushed myself! I strived for great grades and to join the debate team, the yearbook staff, paint the school mural, and do ALL the school plays. (I wasn't playing sports, but my other activities were just as stressful). I couldn't ell when i was burning out, but I knew when I felt bad and the fact that I could go to my parents was the best medicine. I would work myself into a tissy and my mom would work me down. TALKING was the best way to balance stress! Maybe this helps, having an idea from the child's perspective. :)

    Also, I wanted to thank you for finding me on my blog and laeving that great comment! I really appreciate it!

    AubrieAnne @

  16. Both of my boys play sports, however it is their choice. My condition is you have to keep your grades up and you have to give it your best while you are there. I'm not going to spend the time to take them to sports and watch the games if they are going to complain about practice all the time.

    My biggest problem is that my husband is hard on my middle son with sports because he believes he can possibly get somewhere as he has always been a natural athlete. He is pushing him to have more drive, and ambition and wants him to work and believes if he is not going to work it is not worth our money.

    We have very different views.

  17. We have two children and I think it is important for our son to know how to play sport. He has high functioning Aspergers and were possible we try to find places where they teach skills and have fun rather than have him compete in a league.

    He has now played 2 seasons of baseball (at his request) and they have been a little difficult and it has required us to push him to see out the season and not to quit in the middle of a game if something goes wrong. If we are really lucky he will agree to practice during the week.

    Because we know how stressful it is for him and for me he plays only one league sport a year. This year it is Flag Football and the first game was today. I have a lot of work to do as I don't know any of the rules or how to answer his many questions... stop by my blog if you have any suggestions.

  18. This is good info for us as we think about starting our first sports experience in the Spring. Our oldest is only 4, so we have a long road ahead of navigating these tricky issues. His autism will only serve to make it more interesting! We have no idea what to expect, so I think we're going to be starting with a league geared towards kids with special needs and their families. We'll learn as we go! =)

    Thanks for stopping by Stinker Babies. I'm glad to find your blog! Looking forward to reading more.

  19. What a cute blog! I love your header, too!

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    Have a great remainder of the weekend!

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  21. Just wanted to let you know I left a blog award

  22. Stopping by from the Saturday Hops to say hello.

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  23. Thanks for stopping by and linking up at G4M's Sunday Followed & Featured. I'm returning the follow favor! :) This was a slow week but I hope you'll join in again next week!

  24. Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving the sweet message! I'm following your blog back!

    You are to be commended for putting together such an informative blog . . .

    Hope you are having a wonderful week . . . Gina

  25. Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I am so glad you did as I absolutely love your blog. Thank you for sharing your insights and knowledge, as a parent I so much appreciate it.

    It is hard to balance kids activites with academics nad just plain being a kid now and then. It is an increasingly hard world for kids today and as a parent I struggle with where to draw the line. Your insights on sports was very informative and helpful. Thank you so much, Jana