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Athletics/sports: how to make decisions?


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I realize that what I'm about to say may sound counter-culture and extreme, but it seems to me that we (in our country) generally place to much value on sports. Rare is the young person who makes a career out of it, though I recognize there are other benefits (teamwork, sportsmanship, etc.).

So with that in mind, I really struggle to decide on the value we want to put on athletics and sports with my kids. They want to be involved in all sorts of stuff. So far, we let them try things out a bit at the YMCA and go a little deeper when they want (e.g., my 5 yo wanted ballet after a short class, so she's now in a year-long ballet class). They're pretty good little sportsters, in their respective activities.  I feel this constant pull between wanting to let them go further, wanting to invest so they can pursue what they love, and the much more pragmatic piece of me that says that it's unlikely to develop into a life-long hobby, and thus there's not a huge reason to throw all our time and money into right now when they could just do it leisurely some place like the YMCA and when I think there are a LOT of other very important things for kids to be learning/doing/spending their time on (relaxed time with family, free play, learning to serve the poor and needy, etc.)

How do you handle this pull, or am I the only one who really struggles with it? I was so proud when my little 3 yo passed her Kindergarten gymnastics skills, and I when I think about it, I think, "Yes! Let's keep pursuing this!" She just loves it! I was so frustrated when my 5 yo was being taught incorrect gymnastics forms by teens who aren't even gymnasts themselves, and I think "No way! Move her to a better place!" But better is more expensive and too high strung for us (dance this year has been far to competitive for our tastes).

If I'm not willing to be serious down the road (i.e., if I don't think we'd want to do competing things with lots of travel), should I not even let me kids start exploring down that road? Or let them, and draw those boundaries later?

Maybe this is just an issue where I need to do some deeper soul-searching. But any thoughts are welcome.

ETA we do live active lifestyles with lots of time outdoors (hiking, biking, walking, etc). But I think I'm having a hard time feeling like the life I feel is best for our family will somehow deprive my kids or that they'll resent me for lack of opportunities when they were young.

Also, it seems that the Y by us doesn't have all the same offerings of some other Y's, so our options, currently, at least seem to be limited to either very basic Y classes (where the teens aren't aware of the fact that a 3 yo shouldn't be bridging in gymnastics, for instance) or a private place that does want lots of time and money.

Edited by deanna1ynne
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My personal opinion is that sports are completely out of control in this country, and team sports for little kids with organized practices (where parents sit at the sidelines) and competitions most weekends and travel was not how our family wanted to set priorities. I was deeply relieved that every time I asked my kids whether they wanted to sign up for anything they declined.

 

I value fitness and physical activity and want to instill in my kids a lifelong love for an active lifestyle. When the kids were younger, we chose to spend our weekends being active together as a family. We hiked and climbed every weekend, spent quality time without interruptions (when else can you listen to a child for an uninterrupted four hours?), and made great memories. We modeled what it means to be active as an adult. This is something our kids can pursue all their lives - whereas there are hardly any adults who are doing gymnastics.

 

As the kids got older, they developed their distinct interests. 

My DD fell in love with horses and started riding at age 10, which she continued for the next seven years until she left for collge. That was a great experience, and she did spend a lot of time at the barn - but it was not a high pressure competetive environment, few shows, focus on the animal. She learned a lot from training her horse and interacting with the other girls at the barn, something that was important to me since we homeschool. 

My DS discovered martial arts at age 13, started with TKD, added Judo and is taking this extremely seriously. I would never have thought I'd say this, but martial arts have helped him mature and develop as a personality, become focused and goal oriented. He came to sports as an unfocused, somewhat directionless young teen, and it has given him structure and goal. He is really good, competes nationally, and in the past two years we invested a lot of time, driving to the city 100 miles away for training etc. He is planning to have sports related career, and his primary criterion for the college choice was the ability to continue training with a top club.

 

I see a difference when older kids are taking ownership and are discovering and actively pursuing their passion. I would have equally supported a passion for music, or robotics, or painting, or historic reenactments, because I find it important that young people are supported in their pursuits. That this happened to be a sport for DS is a complete coincidence.  

Edited by regentrude
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While I think that there's unhealthy pressure on kids over sports, and extreme fanaticism amongst adults, and excessive consumerism surrounding it all, I still believe that sports are important and healthy for kids.

 

In a time when most kids don't see enough of the sun, and of building healthy bodies through adventurous outdoor play, sports fill a role in their development. All the pounding and bumping signals to the brain to build stronger bones. The aerobic nature of much of sport builds stronger hearts. All of it develops coordination.

 

Sport also helps mental development. Kids learn to push themselves beyond their believed capabilities, and the results are much more tangible than many in their academic studies (i.e. it's more reinforcing to know "I got my back handspring!" than "I know all my multiplication facts."). They also learn to take direction and critique as a gift rather than a condemnation. I think most kids would be happy to get extra pointers on their shooting form in basketball, because they can see the direct connection of being able to score more points in a game, whereas it is harder to receive critique and additional direction on writing a strong thesis because the directly connected results are more subjectively evaluated and rarely noticed by anyone other than teachers. Certainly your child won't be receiving kudos from classmates, "you rocked that thesis!" whereas they will from teammates "you scored 10 points this game to help us win - awesome!"

 

And on that note, the value of a team can be immeasurable. People, including children, want to belong. They form clubs (or in maladaptive ways, gangs) from a young age onward. Teams give them belonging, a sense of being an valued member of a group. Kids learn the importance of cooowrative work - teamwork - being on a team (this is something homeschoolers in particular could use more of). Even in individual sports like gymnastics or wrestling the team trains together and their individual scores contribute to the team's success.

 

Your child may not be destined for a career as an athlete, but dismissing their pursuit of sport for this reason is like dismissing piano lessons for every child who won't become a professional musician (most of them), or not participating in writing competition because the child will never be a professional writer.

 

I think sports, whether those favored by the hot-boxing tiger moms or non traditional ones, are incredibly beneficial. Your child may never make money or significant societal contributions through sport, but they will enjoy the benefits of good health and possibly a loved pastime throughout their life.

 

ETA - I do NOT endorse the hot-boxing tiger mom approach. My reference was to the sports they usually engage in (e.g. gymnastics, baseball, etc.), to say you can be a part of these without succumbing to the feverish mentality, and that you can be equally successful in non-traditional sports (e.g. horse vaulting, rock climbing, etc)

Edited by Targhee
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I understand your concerns.  I think you just have to do what seems to work with your family;  I don't think there's a right or wrong.  If sports at such a young age begins to have negative consequences on your family and what's most important to you, then that's a sign to back down a bit.  Maybe we were lucky in a way, because we lived in a small town where there really wasn't much for young kids in the way of sports except little community ed activities in the summer time.  Otherwise, more serious sports didn't begin until 7th grade, which is when my kids entered it.  A couple of them really loved sports, and the remainder enjoyed them more as a social thing.  But I think being involved in sports had real value for them, so we were certainly in support of it from 7th - 12th grades.  But, we never encouraged them to be on a traveling team (which began in 8th grade in our town, I think), and we chose to not send our ds to swim camp in the summers because it was just too darn expensive.

 

In hind site, it was our ds who loved sports the most, and sometimes I think we did him a disservice by not doing more to help him reach his potential.  There were just not a lot of opportunities in our small rural town.  At the same time, we did a lot of other things as a family -- traveling, for example, which certainly would not have been easy if their (and our) lives were centered around sports.

 

In the end, I guess I don't have much of an answer for you at all!  Just musings about our own experience.

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I agree that sports is out of control!  

 

However, my kids are both athletes.  Ugh. 

 

So, my son - guitar playing, singer, basketball player, history buff. He at least has lots of interests, so a good balance.

 

But my DD, 12, competitive gymnast. Yes, she started in the cute two year old class. Once a week.  Over the years, that has progressed to nearly twenty hours a week for Optionals training.  And yes, at five, they can start to bridge properly.  But most of their backs are not mature enough of the strain, and they should be taught with bent knees, but proper form.  Only as they get stronger, more mature should it look like a gymnastics bridge - which is awful to look at .... their shoulders go way over their hands.    But why do we let  her sport take over her life?  Because she would not have it any other way.  She loves it.   Now if as a family you are not in the position to make this obscene commitment, do not go down the road of competitive gymnastics, no preteam, no advanced classes.  

 

Oh they both do a homeschool archery class as well.

 

That being said, they both know the value of education.  And homeschooling has allowed them to pursue their academic interests and stretch their innate abilities. But school comes first, everything else is second.  

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Yes, the culture puts way too much emphasis on sports, and for most it will never pay off financially in scholarsihps or jobs, but that doesn't mean sports are all bad.

 

When young, my kids did sports off and on - gymnastics, basketball, soccer. I thought too much pressure was put on young kids to compete.

 

Now I have high schoolers on a nationally ranked ultimate frisbee team. My oldest started three years ago and now his siblings do it also. It's been a fun family sport. It's a homeschool team so it provides a lot of outdoor activity and friendships outside of doing schoolwork at home. It provides a terrific outlet for physical activity and being outdoors in the sun which I think is important. A few years ago it was a loosely formed team that had goals to improve and become competitive locally. They have worked crazy hard and now they are competitive nationally. Of course when we started, I just thought we'd be playing a little ultimate around town and not travelling so much for Ultimate. Oh well. The group is accepting of anyone new and any time commitment you want to put in.  For my kids, ultimate is likely to be a passion that continues into college and as an adult.

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Two thoughts:

 

1) physical activity is critical for physical and mental health.

 

2) we need activities in our lives that we do for the passion and pleasure of it.

 

On the other hand, we need to maintain balance and not let sports or other activities consume us and our families. I think we each have to find the balance that works for us.

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I think some people (and some schools) lack a balanced approach, but I do think it's best if kids and adults have some physical activity (among other things) as a regular part of their lives.

 

I love the fact that schools offer a variety of options, for an affordable price, on an optional basis.

 

In my household, the majority of adults (all over 50) have some regular physical "extracurricular" activity as well as some musical pastime that we pursue.  We aren't getting paid for it LOL, but it's real and important to us.  I hope the same for my kids.

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No sig, so I can't tell. How old are your kids? 

 

My ds does team swimming and team gymnastics with the Y, and the Y has been very good to us. They let us choose *not* to compete Sunday meets, an option we wouldn't get with private gyms. They limit practices and keep it recreational. Now the girls' program does practice more than the boys', but even so I think they practice less than private gyms.

 

I think you're missing a couple important things.

-There's a jumping point for how far you go in the sport and where you jump and say not going further. With boys, that jumping point seems to be level 6. I don't know for girls.

-Your girls may actually NEED that level of movement. Climbing trees isn't the same level of sensory input and stimulation as gymnastics. It's why I keep my ds in sports 4+ days a week, because he NEEDS that movement.

-Many people who are active like that as kids and who have that need for movement find it becomes a positive, lifelong habit. Look at who the coaches are. In our area, coaches are often ADHD themselves. ;)

-Your kids may or may not be old enough to participate in your charity and service aspirations. Are you doing those things now? My ds has 3 hour practices. If I wanted to go do a soup kitchen, I could. I don't because reality is *I* need to take care of *myself* and exercise. Exercise makes me a better mother. There's a time and stage of life for everything. Before you make really esoteric decisions I'd actually consider whose dream it is and actually get it going to see how long it takes. I know families who do that kind of charity work once a month, on say a Friday night. It allows them to meet their family goal of serving but doesn't preclude their kids from being in sports.

 

Have they actually invited your girls to be on pre-team or team? Have you talked with them about what would be involved for hours and cost? Have you talked with them about the meets? My ds has missed multiple meets due to them being on Sundays. That's our family's habit and the way both dh and I were raised, going WAY back. It means my reality stays simpler, because the most hassle I have is a long Saturday. As far as cost, the booster has fundraisers during the summer to offset fees.

Edited by OhElizabeth
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I encourage you to back way up as you consider the place for sports in your homeschool. 

 

Many parents around us spend countless hours at the ballfield, but that is frankly perfectly in line with the type of adult they are intending to form from their child (well-versed in the cultural norms of the day so he/she can fit in). 

 

As classical homeschoolers, our goal is to create wise and virtuous adults out of our children.  Hence, athletics DO play a part in this. For example, our girls participate in ballet to develop grace and beauty (virtues), and our boys have fun with karate and soccer to develop strength and discipline (virtues).  We choose to not participate in any travel/club sports, as these do not materially contribute to the cultivation of wisdom and virtue.

 

Before making any decisions about sports, I highly recommending doing this type of vision-casting for your children.  What are you intending to create?  And what part does athletics play in creating the vision?

 

 

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I think sports, like other activities, have benefits beyond just the utilitarian "how this will translate into a scholarship" or even beyond the kids playing that exact sport/instrument/activity later in life. My kids take piano but will will not likely be concern pianists or have any career related to music directly. However, I see lots of benefits from their piano study. I also see many benefits from my son's swimming or my daughter's ballet classes even though I don't see either of them going to do those as future careers. 

 

Everyone has to make decisions for their families and kids about how much is too much. I have three kids and each one has a different desire for things outside of the house. We try and help them each to do the amount that is right for them. We also have tried really hard to have "off seasons" where we are less scheduled balanced with busier seasons. For us those are spring and fall which means we have more free weekends in those seasons to hike or bike or take day trips or just hang out. We also have very purposefully tried to minimize activities in the evenings. That has become harder and harder as my oldest has gotten older but I'm glad we have made that a priority. 

 

And as for service, I don't think it has to be one or the other. We do service as a family as well as other activities. 

Edited by Alice
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Two thoughts:

 

1) physical activity is critical for physical and mental health.

 

2) we need activities in our lives that we do for the passion and pleasure of it.

 

On the other hand, we need to maintain balance and not let sports or other activities consume us and our families. I think we each have to find the balance that works for us.

 

But wouldn't it be nice if life came with a "how to" manual? lol. It's exactly this balance that I'm trying to find, and I'll probably find it right in time for my kids to change interests and we'll start over again! :)

 

In my household, the majority of adults (all over 50) have some regular physical "extracurricular" activity as well as some musical pastime that we pursue.  We aren't getting paid for it LOL, but it's real and important to us.  I hope the same for my kids.

 

I love this, and I think it's really what I want for my kids! So maybe it's asking to much that I'd rather spend our time and money on activities and hobbies that they could carry into their adult lives. (At least when it's a bigger commitment in terms of time, finances, etc.) Music falls into that category for me, because lots of adults continue music just because they love it. Hiking, biking, swimming and rock climbing all fall into that category. My son started Taekwondoe, and I feel like it, too, falls into that category (the studio has a wide variety of ages, from 6 up to 60s).  And I'm open to recreational, light-hearted pursuits of things that probably won't be life-long endeavors (so we do stuff like dance, gymnastics, etc. in the very laid back environment of the ymca), because it's not a huge investment for me there. But it doesn't ease my inner turmoil that says "Do more! They're so good! Competitive gymnastics, here we come!" on the one hand, and "Whoa, crazy lady! You know we don't to spend that kind of time, money, and energy on something so (relatively) short-lived!"

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I don't know why you're dissing the Y like this. The Y has their own gymnastics competitions, especially for girls, and they have Nationals competitions for both boys and girls with cutoffs. You're looking at the very program that is meant to be what you're wanting (competition at a not trying to go to the Olympics level, not trying to completely take over your life level) and then saying it's not good enough. This makes no sense to me.

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I really appreciate everybody's input so far! I know I don't always say things as well as I should, but I appreciate being able to sound here without having to worry too much about saying things just right or getting criticized. :) I'm definitely a verbal processor and so just hearing everyone else's thoughts and experience is really helpful for me to get a big picture view of things. I know that I really need to simultaneously just live in the moment (don't their interests change so quickly anyway?) but also set some boundaries with regards to what we are or aren't willing to do ahead of time, so that we don't get carried away in the moment (a tendency I've felt pulling at me when I see how they love stuff).

 

Right now, I'm not anxious or worried or stressed (though I realize it may sound that way). But I also feel like I'm doing a lot of waffling and being in limbo on some things that really should just be decided (even if we re-evaluate again in a year).

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And I'm open to recreational, light-hearted pursuits of things that probably won't be life-long endeavors (so we do stuff like dance, gymnastics, etc. in the very laid back environment of the ymca), because it's not a huge investment for me there. But it doesn't ease my inner turmoil that says "Do more! They're so good! Competitive gymnastics, here we come!" on the one hand, and "Whoa, crazy lady! You know we don't to spend that kind of time, money, and energy on something so (relatively) short-lived!"

 

 

It sounds like your kids are young. I have found that coaches and teachers and just the general culture all work together to push the idea that you have to do more. Sometimes it's just that they want you to sign up for more classes and pay them more and sometimes it's that they see talent and want to encourage that. We have found this with multiple activities in mulitple sports.

 

My oldest is a good swimmer. His coach has mentioned that he "should swim more" many times. And if his goal was to swim in college or to be an elite swimmer, then he probably should swim more. But it isn't. He is meeting his own goals for swimming and has no interest in having it become his life. In his own words, "I swim enough." He still loves it. I've seen a lot of other kids burn out when they get older if they were pushed to do more more more by a coach or parent and didn't want to do it themselves. 

 

With young kids I have set the limits as a parent based on what fits into our family culture as far as time and money. As the kids get older I would be willing to let them invest more time IF they were the ones with that desire. So if my oldest wanted to swim daily at 4:45 in the morning, I would be willing to have him do that now that is almost in high school. If my 7 year old wanted to take 5 dance classes a week because the just LOVES dance I would say no. 

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I don't know why you're dissing the Y like this. The Y has their own gymnastics competitions, especially for girls, and they have Nationals competitions for both boys and girls with cutoffs. You're looking at the very program that is meant to be what you're wanting (competition at a not trying to go to the Olympics level, not trying to completely take over your life level) and then saying it's not good enough. This makes no sense to me.

 

We love the Y! The prices are great and I love having my  kids  be able to do everything in one place (one kid does swimming, one does gymnastics, one does martial arts, all while I work out! ) But I feel like the quality of instruction our kids have gotten from them (in swimming, dance, and gymnastics) is much, much inferior to the quality they've gotten other places, even just basic cheer/tumbling places. I'm not trying to diss the Y itself - I had no idea that they had their own national gymnastics programs. But most of our classes are taught by 15-18 year olds with no real competitive experience themselves (most, but not all - a few are really good). For the price point, we still like the program, but I'm under no illusion that it the same as working with trained coaches. I'll definitely look into what you're saying, because I'd be really excited if there were options like this (maybe one of the other local Y's is the "main" gymnastic one around, and I never knew it?)! I just assumed that what we are offered at our nearest Y (which is the largest one in our city) was standard procedure. But I would absolutely love it if the Y could be what we're looking for here!

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Have you actually had a meeting with the *head* of the gymnastics program and asked them where this is going? Yes, they'll use teens for those lower classes. By the time you get to team and the uppermost levels of team you have adults and level 10 athletes. That's the goal, to have their top employees working with their higher level kids. You take 5 yos in, new students in, and yes they're going to be with teens. That's what you get at that pricepoint.

 

I think the fact that you didn't know about the national program for the Y shows that there's possibly *more* available through the Y, as you progress through their offerings, that you just aren't seeing yet. My ds had the classes taught by teens too, so I get what you're saying. Same gig with swimming, where we had teen lifeguards. Honestly, they were qualified. Barring SN or special situations, the level of skill required is so low to teach the level that teens are FINE! The kids LOVE having teens teach. My ds' favorite, favorite teachers were always the teens. The adults are more serious, more intimidating.

 

You want to kill a kid's love of the sport, put him in a more serious setting than he's emotionally ready for. The teen teachers can be FINE. Absolutely you can watch those classes and make sure the instruction is correct. If it's not, it's a supervision problem. 

 

I'm guessing if you have a talk with the manager of the program, they can explain to you what they really offer. They do NOT have the teen girls out practicing during public/recreational classes. It's a totally different world and they work out at totally separate days and times. So the best thing is to talk with the manager and see where it's going. Maybe your Y really doesn't offer much, or maybe they have good things ahead that your kids just aren't ready for. My ds was groomed. They would watch and coaches would come by and observe. But you know, just talk with them and see.

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Have you actually had a meeting with the *head* of the gymnastics program and asked them where this is going? Yes, they'll use teens for those lower classes. By the time you get to team and the uppermost levels of team you have adults and level 10 athletes. That's the goal, to have their top employees working with their higher level kids. You take 5 yos in, new students in, and yes they're going to be with teens. That's what you get at that pricepoint.

 

I think the fact that you didn't know about the national program for the Y shows that there's possibly *more* available through the Y, as you progress through their offerings, that you just aren't seeing yet. My ds had the classes taught by teens too, so I get what you're saying. Same gig with swimming, where we had teen lifeguards. Honestly, they were qualified. Barring SN or special situations, the level of skill required is so low to teach the level that teens are FINE! The kids LOVE having teens teach. My ds' favorite, favorite teachers were always the teens. The adults are more serious, more intimidating.

 

You want to kill a kid's love of the sport, put him in a more serious setting than he's emotionally ready for. The teen teachers can be FINE. Absolutely you can watch those classes and make sure the instruction is correct. If it's not, it's a supervision problem.

 

I'm guessing if you have a talk with the manager of the program, they can explain to you what they really offer. They do NOT have the teen girls out practicing during public/recreational classes. It's a totally different world and they work out at totally separate days and times. So the best thing is to talk with the manager and see where it's going. Maybe your Y really doesn't offer much, or maybe they have good things ahead that your kids just aren't ready for. My ds was groomed. They would watch and coaches would come by and observe. But you know, just talk with them and see.

Most Y's do not have competitive gymnastics, certainly not level 10.

 

It is wonderful that yours does and some others do, but please don't assume that most of us have access to such a thorough program. I have never lived near a Y that had more than very basic tumbling.

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I encourage you to back way up as you consider the place for sports in your homeschool.

 

Many parents around us spend countless hours at the ballfield, but that is frankly perfectly in line with the type of adult they are intending to form from their child (well-versed in the cultural norms of the day so he/she can fit in).

 

As classical homeschoolers, our goal is to create wise and virtuous adults out of our children. Hence, athletics DO play a part in this. For example, our girls participate in ballet to develop grace and beauty (virtues), and our boys have fun with karate and soccer to develop strength and discipline (virtues). We choose to not participate in any travel/club sports, as these do not materially contribute to the cultivation of wisdom and virtue.

 

Before making any decisions about sports, I highly recommending doing this type of vision-casting for your children. What are you intending to create? And what part does athletics play in creating the vision?

I'll be sure to let my son, the captain of his travel ice hockey team, know that he will never attain the high pinnacles of wisdom and virtue the classically-minded athlete will achieve.

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Have you actually had a meeting with the *head* of the gymnastics program and asked them where this is going? Yes, they'll use teens for those lower classes. By the time you get to team and the uppermost levels of team you have adults and level 10 athletes. That's the goal, to have their top employees working with their higher level kids. You take 5 yos in, new students in, and yes they're going to be with teens. That's what you get at that pricepoint.

 

I think the fact that you didn't know about the national program for the Y shows that there's possibly *more* available through the Y, as you progress through their offerings, that you just aren't seeing yet. My ds had the classes taught by teens too, so I get what you're saying. Same gig with swimming, where we had teen lifeguards. Honestly, they were qualified. Barring SN or special situations, the level of skill required is so low to teach the level that teens are FINE! The kids LOVE having teens teach. My ds' favorite, favorite teachers were always the teens. The adults are more serious, more intimidating.

 

You want to kill a kid's love of the sport, put him in a more serious setting than he's emotionally ready for. The teen teachers can be FINE. Absolutely you can watch those classes and make sure the instruction is correct. If it's not, it's a supervision problem. 

 

I'm guessing if you have a talk with the manager of the program, they can explain to you what they really offer. They do NOT have the teen girls out practicing during public/recreational classes. It's a totally different world and they work out at totally separate days and times. So the best thing is to talk with the manager and see where it's going. Maybe your Y really doesn't offer much, or maybe they have good things ahead that your kids just aren't ready for. My ds was groomed. They would watch and coaches would come by and observe. But you know, just talk with them and see.

 

Ah, this might answer a lot of my questions regarding the offerings at the Y, when your experience seems so different from anything I've seen or heard of. I didn't realize the "levels" in formal gymnastics had any correlation to the "levels" in Y gymnastics, and none of the Y's in my area have anything beyond level 3 (one doesn't have gymnastics at all, one has only level 1 and the one we're at has up to level 3).

 

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Ah, this might answer a lot of my questions regarding the offerings at the Y, when your experience seems so different from anything I've seen or heard of. I didn't realize the "levels" in formal gymnastics had any correlation to the "levels" in Y gymnastics, and none of the Y's in my area have anything beyond level 3 (one doesn't have gymnastics at all, one has only level 1 and the one we're at has up to level 3).

 

Our boys don't even *start* competing till level 4. I think the girls might start with level 3? I'm not really up on that. Just saying you won't know till you ask. If that's all they offer is intro level, then that's what they offer. 

 

So yes, if your Y does not offer competitive level gymnastics, then you're going to have some harder decisions to make. If you can find a Y within a sane drive that *does* have competitive gymnastics, that would be an option. We've had people drive 45 minutes each way for our programs. So you could just see. 

 

I agree that if your choices are private gym to compete or staying recreational level at a variety of sports, staying recreational can be really good. That would be a really unique child for whom a serious competitive track is better. Those programs seem to kind of thin down as the levels progress. That's what I meant by jump points. People get in, do a year or two, and they see where their kids are and assess. But I agree it can be a huge commitment at a private gym. Even then, you might check. The private gym might want a year of pre-team before they invited you to team. Pre-team will usually be two days a week, maybe like what you're already doing.

 

The levels, as our Y uses them, are the same for both USAG and Y. Skills, routines, scoring are all the same. What differs is that our Y has the boys practice 2 days a week, while a private boys' team might practice 3-4 days a week at this level. So if my ds scores a 10.40 or whatever at a private (non-Y) meet, his score is the same as it would have been at a Y meet but he's competing against boys who practice significantly more. He's actually doing ok this year, which has surprised us. 

Edited by OhElizabeth
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To the OP: Do we insist that our children only follow pursuits that will lead to a future career? Also, how many people are in the highest levels of their profession as pro athletes are? If you think about it, many childhood passions and pursuits don't lead to top jobs. Instead they work to shape character, discipline, focus, and aid in the formation of many other worthwhile skills that help children grow into successful adults. We know the statistics of students getting athletic scholarships and eventually going pro, and that is not our motivating factor for our kids' participation in any of their activities. However, there's no doubt that they are learning skills and developing character traits that will help them as they mature.

 

For some families, because of the nature of their kids, they are well-served to be highly involved in activities (sports, music, arts, theater, science, math, robotics, or whatever their area may be). These kids are highly motivated, driven, gifted at their activity. For other families, these activities are just fun things that help them be well-rounded and healthy but shouldn't be a focus of time, effort, or money. You have to figure out based on your own children's talents and passions what type of activities serve your family best.

 

And FWIW, it's okay to not feel the need to follow the crowd of what other parents are doing. We left an "elite" organization a couple years ago because we saw it for the money grab that it really was. We don't buy our kids the latest and greatest gear and take breaks when some people have their kids play/perform year round. We don't care how other parents do it, because we don't answer to them. You set the tone and pace that's right for you.

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I've found it helpful to consider things in light of their opportunity cost - no matter what we choose, we are closing a door (or several doors) for something else we could be doing during that time.

 

A family that chooses to participate in a high level of sports has closed the door to spending that time together as a family (that's not to say that they don't ever spend time together, just that it's physically impossible for one member of the family to be participating in an activity while the entire family simultaneously spends time together).

 

And a family that chooses to have dinner together every night has closed the door on activities or sports that have practices or games that would interfere with dinner.

 

I look at this not as a judgement on other families, but how I think about decisions we make for us. There are too many good things to do, and there's no way to do them all. So we choose a couple of priorities and realize that means that we will not be participating in other good things. 

Edited by williams6039
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My daughter switched from regular competitive gymnastics to Xcel gymnastics. It is less time and money but you still get to compete. I really like the program, it has been a good fit for her and for our family.

 

We have never lived in an area where the gymnastics at the Y had a good program that taught good form, but we had a military friend whose kids lived elsewhere who had a good Y gymnastics program. She sent me a video concerned that her kids were not learning anything, I told her that at the lower levels that was best, it was a lot better to learn lower level skills with good form than to learn more with bad form. It is hard to undo bad habits.

 

Xcel gymnastics is growing, you can look for gyms in your area that have the program if you are interested in the sport. I think gymnastics is a good sport for a young child, it develops body control and awareness. Because of my gymnastics background, I was able to make nationals in Judo after only a year and a half of Judo training.

 

Xcel is run by the USAG and some gyms will do both and some gyms just do one or the other. You can move back and forth between regular gymnastics and Xcel if your goals change. You will never be a college gymnast from the Xcel side, but my daughter started gymnastics too late for that anyway so that was not a concern for us.

 

Sports have gotten a bit crazy in general but if you can find the right fit for your family and children's needs they can still be beneficial.

Edited by ElizabethB
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We've never done gymnastics but we are a sports family. We have one practice or a another every night. My oldest is a swimmer. He started on a city rec team and he did that for 3 years. At that point it became obvious he had outgrown the program. He needed better coaching and a more competitive environment. That ended up being at our Y but not all their sports are worth it. We happen top have a coach who is excellent. He trains them hard but understands balance for kids,especially the younger ones. My younger son plays soccer. He is on a rec team and will be for the foreseeable future. For us it was obvious when needs changed and it didn't feel like a major sacrifice.

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First, to the OP, competitive gymnastics is a category almost unto itself and should not be lumped together with most of the other travel/club sports.

 

I grew up with sports, and I love youth sports. All my kids are members of travel teams, and those teams have provided some of our best activities as a family. Travel sports are expensive, but we choose to do these sports instead of going on vacations or doing other leisure activities (in general).

 

Physical fitness, physical development, character development, social interaction, relationship building, learning to contribute to a team, time management skills, leadership, self-control, respect for authority, enjoyment, thrill of competition, humility in losses, humility in victories...

These are some of the benefits I see my kids acquiring in youth sports. Whoever said that youth sports don't produce wisdom and virtue--?????? is all I have to say about that.

 

I also coach youth sports, and while i enjoy it immensely, I also do it as a community service. Through coaching, I have been able to invest significantly in the lives of quite a few kids.

Edited by Mrs Twain
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There was a time when I thought my parenting decisions could change what's wrong with our culture.  Somewhere along the way I gave that up.  My parenting is not a cultural or a political statement.  It's about doing what's best for my kids.  Imho, what's best for my kids is giving them opportunities to achieve in areas they love, things they are good at, things they really enjoy.  Let them receive excellent coaching or instruction.  Let them do hard things.  Let them increase their confidence that they can overcome obstacles, etc.  I would not choose a lesser path just because I think society goes overboard sometimes.  Sometimes a compromise is needed because of time, money, number of children, distance, etc., but not because of choices others are making.    

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....  I feel this constant pull between wanting to let them go further, wanting to invest so they can pursue what they love, and the much more pragmatic piece of me that says that it's unlikely to develop into a life-long hobby, and thus there's not a huge reason to throw all our time and money into right now when they could just do it leisurely some place like the YMCA and when I think there are a LOT of other very important things for kids to be learning/doing/spending their time on (relaxed time with family, free play, learning to serve the poor and needy, etc.) ....

 

 

I think there are two things that you should consider as you contemplate this: (1) Do I have an accurate view of the life-long benefits of sports? (2) Is it my stance that I only invest in activities that will develop into a life-long hobby?

 

I think #2 is a very personal choice, but I ask, how do you know what will or won't become a life-long hobby? There are women with TV shows about teaching dance and were never professional dancers themselves. Not to mention all the successful women entrepreneurs who own similarly successful businesses (without the TV show). There are also coaches, sports agents, sports front office personnel, trainers, physical therapist, physical trainers, ... The list could go on and on of careers largely pursued by athletes who didn't turn pro. 

 

For #1, many have responded with some of the intangible benefits of sports, so I won't rehash those, but I encourage you to not take them lightly. I was a member of my company's women's leadership team and as we were going through leadership development we read the book Lean In and that book discussed how women often lack the aggressiveness, confidence, and competitiveness needed to excel in a male-dominated corporate environment. In our table discussion, we discussed how none of us 'lacked' those qualities but we do see it in the women we work with that weren't in leadership (and quite frankly, never will be). We then wondered if those qualities were nature or nurture? What we found is that every-single one of us grew up in a competitive environment...either competitive dance, gymnastics, or sports. And we all discussed how those experiences equipped us to handle the male-dominant environments of Corporate America. Now, I do believe that those qualities could be nature, but being involved in competitive ventures from a young age will definitely further develop them. So, that investment may not lead (directly) to a career or life-long hobby, but it could be the difference between being a Senior Analyst or Director/Vice President in her chosen field.

 

DH and I were both scholarship division 1 athletes, so we are clearly pro-sports. However, there is a line. I can't explain it; our experience helps us. From what we see, many select teams are rip offs and you'd get just as good from a good city-club team and maybe playing an age group up; especially when you have parents that can help you on the side. But even then, we flee bad coaching or step in and 'help'. Gymnastics is different. Bad gymnastics training will stunt progress and can lead to injury. If you want to compete in gymnastics, you need good training. Personal experience: you can spend just as much at a low quality cheaper school, than a high-quality expensive school....why....bc the high-quality coaches have better training techniques that get you where you need to be faster. Our 1st year at the high-quality gymnastics school was spent undoing the damage done by the low-quality school and I (untrained in gymnastics) could clearly see the difference. Please note that I am NOT saying that high-quality = cost more and low-quality = low cost ... that was my personal experience.

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I would just chime in to the "lifelong" commentary.  I've been reading memoirs of Condoleezza Rice.  She is a person who was brought up to love sports and it stuck.  I just read about how she built her staff when she became Secretary of State.  Her sports background played an important part in that, among many other things.  (A woman operating in a traditionally "man's world" benefits from being able to speak the sports language well.)  If you go on her facebook page today, you will see many posts about sports.  (She also continued her musical activities throughout her professional life.)

 

As for my kids, I could see one of them having a career in physical fitness or volunteering as a coach.  I can also see her being successful in business due to assertiveness, tenacity, and teamwork.  My other kid is a horse-loving dreamer.  I made the mistake of mentioning her unrealistic dreams in front of the owner of the farm where she rides.  Mrs. Owner put me in my place.  :)

 

Myself, I was not into sports (though I did learn to love football).  When I joined an accounting firm and all anyone talked about was basketball, it put me at a distinct disadvantage.  Maybe it should not have, but that's reality.  I'm glad my kids won't have this issue.

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I have thought about this. My goals are for them to develop confidence, strength, endurance, and to have fun. Right now, my kids are in TKD, take swim lessons, my dd takes gymnastics and soccer, ds is going to join a mountain biking team soon and both will be running a race series in a few weeks. Also, it is not an insignificant consideration for me, that they are active enough to sleep well at night. My kids seem to really need more physical activity than most. When it's not freezing cold, they spend a lot of time outside on the trampoline, bike riding, roller skating, etc. Trying to wear them out is practically a full-time job! I hope that the strength and coordination they develop now, will give them a good base for an active, healthy lifestyle when they are adults.

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...

 

A family that chooses to participate in a high level of sports has closed the door to spending that time together as a family (that's not to say that they don't ever spend time together, just that it's physically impossible for one member of the family to be participating in an activity while the entire family simultaneously spends time together).

 

And a family that chooses to have dinner together every night has closed the door on activities or sports that have practices or games that would interfere with dinner.

....

 

This is just not true. We manage to have dinner together every night and participate in sports 3-5 days per week...we all have to eat after all. Additionally, our family does EVERYTHING together. My sons even practice together...at each other's practice and both dh and I are there helping out. We also spend time together daily playing games, talking while eating, taking walks, bike riding, hiking, watching sports, etc... My dh is the neighborhood dad...all the kids hang out outside our place and we (dh and I) are out there playing with them.

We attend church together; I actually can't think of what we don't do together (all 4 of us).

 

I've been an athlete since I was 11 and I actually believe that we spent more time together and were closer bc of sports. I would also say that this was true of about 50% of my different teammates over 20 years of athletics involvement...meaning sports is not the deciding factor on family time. Actually, one could make a solid argument that sport families spend more time together; especially those who travel together.

 

Now if the family isn't involved with the sport and just does the drop off thing (seen plenty of that)....well, sports isn't the issue - it's finding a common interest. So sports is not the deciding factor of family time....the family is.

Edited by RenaInTexas
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- You don't have to introduce your children to every single sport or physical activity while they are in their youth. They can explore new sports and activities throughout their lifetime.

 

- You don't have to start a sport at age 2 - 4 to become skilled. The drop-out rate of sports is huge at age 13. Many kids have "burned-out" by this time by too much too soon. 

 

- You don't have to spend thousands of dollars on sports. You can, if you have the money and you want to, but it's not necessary to enjoy sports physical activities. 

 

- You SHOULD ensure your children are physically active to promote good healthy in their youth, and increase the chances of them continuing to be physically active in adulthood. Being active for 30 minutes every day is a wonderful goal for everyone at every age.

 

 

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This is just not true. We manage to have dinner together every night and participate in sports 3-5 days per week...we all have to eat after all. Additionally, our family does EVERYTHING together. My sons even practice together...at each other's practice and both dh and I are there helping out. We also spend time together daily playing games, talking while eating, taking walks, bike riding, hiking, watching sports, etc... My dh is the neighborhood dad...all the kids hang out outside our place and we (dh and I) are out there playing with them.

We attend church together; I actually can't think of what we don't do together (all 4 of us).

 

I've been an athlete since I was 11 and I actually believe that we spent more time together and were closer bc of sports. I would also say that this was true of about 50% of my different teammates over 20 years of athletics involvement...meaning sports is not the deciding factor on family time. Actually, one could make a solid argument that sport families spend more time together; especially those who travel together.

 

Now if the family isn't involved with the sport and just does the drop off thing (seen plenty of that)....well, sports isn't the issue - it's finding a common interest. So sports is not the deciding factor of family time....the family is.

 

Yeah, I don't think I worded my answer very well. It sounds like sports is a very good thing for your family, and that's fantastic.

 

I was trying to get at the second part of the title question - how to make decisions? And for me, acknowledging that we will miss things because we have finite time and money, emotionally/mentally frees me to focus on our priorities and make decisions with more confidence and less waffling.

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As far as priorities - I find myself having to re-examine ours frequently.  We are down to 3 non-school sports, one of which we hardly ever do any more.  I regularly get pressure from various "conflicting priorities" about all 3.  (Also scouts.)  It would be easier to just drop them all, but would it be best ... no ... at least not at this time.  Ask me again in a few months ....

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We do some sports in the grade school years for exposure, health benefits and fun. We choose things that fit our budget, our schedule, where we have friends, where our kids have interest and sometimes where we Dh and I have ability to coach. Swimming, imo, is absolutely necessary and both of our kids have done several years of summer swim team to get them to a level that I am happy with for safety. We choose some team sports and some that are considered lifetime sports.

 

 

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Sports are healthy. My kids are not super atheletic but I've seen great value.

 

What I would do is keep them In the low key sports (no travel competitions!) until they're older. Then if they're somewhere between 11and 13 and they really really love something you can let them pursue it with more travel time.

 

I definitely think it's weird and sick that we have entire families splitting up all weekend so 6 year olds can do travel sports competitions.

 

On the other hand you have to let your kids be who they are and enjoy their own pursuits, and that would start at the pre teen age.

 

Also as a side note you can't really plan it all, sometimes you have to

Wait and see and make decisions when the time

Comes. :)

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In my area, if you don't put your kids into a travel program before middle school, then they will have a tough time finding a spot later. Personally I think it is often better to wait until middle school to specialize in a sport, but I have put one of my kids on a travel team earlier because it was the only feasible option.

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We are a sports family and it has been a wonderful thing!  We've chosen it as our main social activity for the kids.  We go to a small church with no other kids so I had to find something that would let the kids be around other kids and in our family it seems to be sports.  We've been involved with the same local community sports for years so there are many family friendships that have developed there and we're also involved with a small private school that welcomes our kids to play school sports that has proven to be a great investment of our time.  

 

We do have crazy schedules at times with overlapping practices and games and we do have to split up sometimes but normally we are having family time at the games and enjoying each other and our friends.  Some of the best friendships that my younger kids have had over the years have been developed while attending games of older siblings and finding playmates among the other siblings there.

 

We've only done a few travel teams over the years but we have enjoyed having the excuse to travel on the weekends :)

 

I'm not expecting it to be a life-long experience for any of the kids.  Of course, right now I have the next NBA *star* in my house (ds13) - LOL!  I encourage their dreams and take them to practices and cheer for them at games and we all work together as a family to make it work. Even my adults kids volunteer frequently to see that youngers get to their practices and games.  

 

I do admit I panicked a bit earlier this week when I had input all the practices and games for March and April baseball.  Only 5 baseball/softball teams this spring!

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Another point no one has mentioned yet is that we have a lot more "family time" because we homeschool. I am home with my kids for most of the school days five days per week. My husband also helps with the homeschooling. We also eat breakfasts and most lunches together. Since we have so much time together during the day, I don't feel badly about going in different directions in the afternoons and sometimes on weekends.

 

If my kids were in public or private school all week, I think travel sports would be more difficult on our family time.

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I think there are benefits to being active, but it needs to be looked at proportionatly.  There are some holes people get sucked down:

1) My kid will joint the NHL.  No, they won't.   This isn't as bad as the US as we don't have scolarships for sports, but it still happens.

2) My kid needs to progress as far as possible to get the most out of it.  No.  It is ok if your kid does not "fulfill her potentia" here.

3) My kid wants to comtete or progress or do this every day. No, your child might not be making the best decision about this. 

 

The truth is, some of these things can be true, or partly true, sometimes, but how to tell?

 

What I do is try and think clearly about my goals, what will get us there, and look at examples of people who have got there.

 

For us, my immediate goals for kids are:

 

fun and fitness, and realistically it seems to be that they aren't getting enough of this without some activity - kids in our area aren't out playing physically enough for that to cover it. 

 

In some cases skills - ideally I'd like them to swim and skate well enough to be safe and have access to other activities.

 

And I want them to be able to carry on these activities into adulthood and carry on being active.

 

So - to get there, they need to do a few different things, swimming and skating obviously, but also sports that they can do in the long term for fun.  To some extent, that actually seems to preclude things like spending too many hours on one thing.  I can see what activities people seem to carry on recreationally as adults, and rather ironically a lot of people who were very dedicated to one thing aren't doing them later, they get too old or there are no adult options.  It seems like being competent at a lot of things actually means more adult recreation than being super advanced at one thing - those adults will join whatever is going on.

 

Also - injury isn't part of what I want for my kids.  So really intense training as youngsters isn't what we are looking for, even if it is "necessary" to fulfill potential.

 

We really try and do things seasonally, as that seems to impose natural limits.

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Yeah, I kind of wish my kids would like tennis and golf, since those are sports they are likely to be invited to play when they are adults.  We've tinkered with both, but neither is a hit so far.  :)

 

Looking at your signature, it appears that you dd's are very physically active. They'll have little probably picking up tennis and golf later on in life, if they choose to. Then they will be highly sought after in mixed doubles tennis. 

 

My dh and I are trying to get our dd and at least one ds to develop their tennis skills. We want to mixed doubles set in the family. Our friends with 4 dc have done this with 2 of their adult children, and they have a wonderful time going on vacations together to tennis destinations. 

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