When Should Kids Start to Concentrate On One Sport?

There are any number of sports opportunities available for kids to choose, far more than were available than when I was a kid.  Baseball, football and basketball are now joined by soccer, lacrosse, volleyball, field hockey.  This is further complicated by the option to play at various levels that range from rec league to travel and premier for the most committed players.  The question that my wife and I ask ourselves is at what point we finally tell the kids that they have to finally concentrate on one sport instead of just letting them play a number of them?

It’s a family decision and the answer will vary accordingly.  Frankly, some will read this and probably think that I’m full of crap and that’s fine.  But what are some of the things that we consider when talking about kids and sports?

  • First, if the kid wants to play multiple sports, are they in the same season?  Soccer in our area is played both Fall and Spring, so it’s concurrent with both Football and Baseball.  Our philosophy has been that if the sport options play and practice simultaneously, the child will have to make a choice.  When the kid splits sports in one season, there’s a real possibility that practices and/or games will overlap and the kid won’t be able to make a full commitment to either sport.  There are multiple reasons to compete in a sport and frankly, one of them is to win.  It’s important to learn teamwork and cooperation and it’s especially important to have fun.  But most kids do want to be on a winning team and it’s simply not fair to the rest if a team member isn’t making all of the practices but still expects to play.
  • Second, at what level does the kid want to compete?  Eldest played for a season at a travel team level and decided that rec league’s more to her liking; if she’s happy playing multiple sports at a more relaxed level, then we’re fine with that.
  • Third, how old is the child?  The demands of some sports and coaches are rigorous and it can frankly burn out a child.  It’s a shame to see a child grow to hate a sport because of the demands on a child not yet ready to accept them.
  • Fourth, what’s the impact on the remainder of the family?  Middle asked on multiple occasions – which is one of my criteria to ascertain the seriousness of a kid’s idea – to take up Fencing.  To give fair due, he’s a wiry teen with physical grace, flexibility and quick reflexes.  There’s even a local instructor who competed with the national Soviet team in the 1970s/1980s.  However, the competitions will frequently be out of the area and we’re unwilling to commit that kind of time to competitions in other states.

 Youngest has been clear that he wants to play baseball for the local high school team, which has a history of winning seasons and championships.  If he persists in this desire, we’ll support him; but at his young age, we’re going to let him play other sports until he’s old enough to better understand the demands that serious competition makes.

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