I know children reap a number of benefits when they play sports. Athletics promote healthy bodies and minds. They also help kids learn important skills such as setting goals, teamwork and leadership. But with my daughter interested in adding another sport on top of ballet and gymnastics, I started to wonder if there is a downside to all of these activities. Is there such a thing as being involved in too many sports?
Karen Neville, who has worked as a school psychologist for the past 20 years in California’s Monterey Peninsula, says it is possible to sign your kids up for too many sports. The consequences are an increased risk of injury, especially if they are involved in contact sports. And the time commitment associated attending practices, games and driving to all of them can impact family life at home.
“Over commitment to sports does not allow for quiet, quality time for families to ‘be’ together,” said Neville. “Sharing a meal together, playing a game or reading together strengthens relationships within the family.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that your family should cut sports out altogether, according to Neville, whose two teenagers share her passion for swimming, biking and skiing. Rhondah Owings, a mom who has been an early childhood educator for 18 years, agrees. Rather than eliminating athletics, “there should be limits to how much organized sports your child is involved in,” Owings said.
To be sure, every family has unique interests, needs and circumstances that will shape their decision. And there is no magic number of sports that will work for everyone. But below are a few guidelines Neville and Owings recommend parents consider when trying to determine how many sports is right for them and their kids.
- Discuss the impact multiple sports will have on your time, money, children and family life.
- Consider the parents’ needs too. “There is the analogy of ‘putting on your own oxygen mask’ before you help others in order to be effective as a caretaker/parent,” Neville said. “Parents, I believe, should make sure that their needs (i.e., physical, emotional and relationship) are met first since the marriage is really the cornerstone of the family unit.”
- Think about incorporating sports the whole family can do together such as running, swimming and biking.
- Reduce the risk of injuries by choosing sports that work different muscle groups, movements and degrees of weight and pressure.
- “Children do need free time and unstructured play,” Owings said. “Let them go outside to run, chase and play with other children in an unstructured way so that they can ‘practice’ those leadership and community-building skills they learned in sports.”
Are your children involved in sports? How did your family decide how many sports to sign up for?
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