Roots and wings – yes, my friend, Giti, I am in full agreement with you there! Roots and wings are what most parents try give to their children while raising them. We try to keep them grounded in a strong value system while giving them the space they need to develop the confidence they need to be able to soar on their own. Sounds relatively simple, right? But every parent knows how not simple this is! What works for one kid may need to be adjusted for another, and each parent has their own unique approach to developing roots and wings in their children. This is precisely the reason that parent-shaming needs to be thrown out the window and replaced with a desire to learn from and understand other parents’ beliefs and strategies for the very challenging and exciting job of raising children.
In reading Giti’s post, My Blasphemous Parenting Views, that explains why she chose not to put her children in organized sports, I understand each point she makes and agree with many of them. Especially relatable is how expensive sports can be, and how they often interfere with family dinners. However, as a mom of four children, all of whom have played/do play an organized sport, and one who went on to play a sport in college, I decided to present how these experiences have been and continue to be beneficial for my kids and for my husband and me.
Pros for the Parents
- Quality time spent with child. Yes, driving to and from practices can be a royal pain, but that time together in the car can lead to some great conversations. Having the opportunity to process a tough loss or an amazing win with your kid often opens up opportunities to talk about bigger life lessons and can establish a valuable bond between you and your child. I remember wishing for the time when my son could drive himself to baseball, but the first time he drove himself to practice, I felt a loss as it occurred to me that I actually really enjoyed that one-on-one time with him.
- The joy of watching your child play. My husband and I love to watch our kids play sports. Even when things get stressful on the field (and in the stands) or even when we are shivering because it is only 40 degrees at the baseball opener, there is something magical about watching your child “soar” while playing the sport they love.
- Fun family activity. During the summer baseball season, on game nights we would pack food for the younger kids (or sometimes let them eat the junk from the concessions stand), and they would run around the baseball park or head to the nearby park with other kids while my husband and I chatted with other parents. We kept one eye on the game and one eye on the kids. It was a fun way to spend many summer evenings as a family.
- Developing relationships with other parents that you otherwise may not meet. When you sit in the stands night after night, in the cold, rain, or the blazing heat of the summer watching your kid, you can’t help but develop a bond with those sitting around you. I have met some very interesting and lovely people through my kids’ sports teams and some of those relationships have lasted long after the season ended and the team disbanded.
Pros for the Kids
- Developing relationships . My kids have made great friends with kids who go to different schools and live in different neighborhoods. But the fact that they are teammates has created lasting bonds, for which they are grateful. Playing organized sports help kids learn about the give and take of friendships, how to lift a teammate up when he has a bad game or how your child can ask a teammate for help when he is struggling. Furthermore, several of my kids’ coaches became invaluable mentors to them, and continue to offer their guidance and support.
- Exercise, discipline, and confidence. Childhood obesity is an epidemic in America today. Bottom line: kids need to move. Participating in organized sports creates the structure many kids need and want in order to stay active and healthy. Kids get to witness how their training, hard work, discipline, and accountability helps them perform better and feel stronger. This will help build their confidence and help them understand the value of hard work, which they can apply to every aspect of their lives.
- Learning to deal with adversity and other life lessons. When your child plays organized sports, she most often will be placed on a team based on her age and/or ability. In other words, she doesn’t get to pick her team. She is forced to deal with teammates who she may not like, a coach who she thinks is “mean,” practices she thinks are too hard or too easy, or the fact that she is not getting as much playing time as she “should” be. These are tough, yet essential life lessons. Kids who play organized sports learn how to be a team player, how to win and to lose; and how to show respect for themselves and others.
- Stress relief. Kids today are stressed. Really stressed. And yes, organized sports can be stressful, especially when parents get overly involved and/or put too much pressure on their child (which we will save for another article). But for the most part, playing sports is a welcome outlet for kids to release the mounting pressures they face socially and academically. While there is a certain amount of stress that often accompanies competition, most kids who choose to play organized sports yearn for, and are inspired by, this type of competition.
While there are many sacrifices that have to be made by all family members to have your child or children participate in organized sports, I am grateful that my children have taken that path. I have watched my now 19-year-old son who plays college baseball learn some of the most important life lessons during baseball games, and am now watching my youngest daughter become more and more confident every time she steps out on the soccer field to compete.
My other two children, while they have participated in some organized sports, were not as drawn into this world, and that path has worked out really well for them.
It is not a straight or clear path to instill roots and wings in our children. I believe that putting children in organized sports can help teach children important “rooting” lessons that they will need in order to soar.
But do I think this is the only way? Absolutely not. I think you have to find the way that works for you and your family. And that way is the best way.