Writer’s Block: Perspective on kids’ sports

Now that our daughter is growing closer and closer to her second birthday (February), the decision of what activities and when to start participating start to creep into my mind more and more.

Jason Olson
Jason Olson

Last spring we enrolled her in her first activity – swimming lessons at a nearby pool.

Coincidentally, it is the same pool my wife and I learned to swim 30-plus years ago.

As a year old, Britta, our daughter, liked the water, but, of course, we dealt with the screams of disapproval.

Since then she’s learned the joys of running, climbing and all the regular things a 20-plus-month-old can do and soon enough we’ll have to make decisions about what activities we introduce her to.

I know we still have at least a decade to help her discover new things, but the dilemma is finding that right fit between structured time and letting her live the wild and wacky life of a kid.

Of course, we would love to have her earn a college scholarship, but at what cost to the entire family and herself?

On one hand, the experiences of being part of a team or group are incredible. Concepts like teamwork, problem solving, having pride and taking ownership of something greater than yourself, and I could go on and on.

On the opposite side, are we scheduling so much time that she doesn’t have time to simply be a kid without a set time to be here or there.

It’s always going to be an issue and everyone has to make their own decision.

Being around sports and, in particular, youth sports gives me a daily reminder that time flies and in no time she’ll be old enough to shoot hoops or strap on a pair of skates.

She has the whole running thing down pretty well and throws (anything except for a ball) with the best of them at 21 months.

Kicking is another skill she’s refined, moving toys out of the way for our daily game of chase around the living room.

We have entire industries devoted to all facets of youth sports from equipment, leagues/tournaments and coaching or extra specialized training.

I know I’m going to sound like a guy much older than 32, but what happened to the days of pickup games in a neighbor’s yard or vacant play lot?

It was free, got us out of the house for some time and helped develop friendships that have lasted throughout the years.

Granted we developed our own throwing style or catch a baseball in our glove palm down instead of palm up, but that wasn’t the point.

The point was we were having fun.

I think the fun is being redirected from enjoying the act of skating with a puck or making a three-point basket to an all-or-nothing premise of win equals happy, lose equals sad without much room in middle for being content.

I know each sport has beginner-level programs to introduce the children to the sport so they become comfortable with it before making a decision that devotes time and money.

I’ve seen tremendous youth hockey programs that simply get the kids comfortable skating on the enormous sheet of ice, playing fun games that have nothing to do with hockey.

Kudos to those volunteers who get the next generation started.

Their work doesn’t go unnoticed and to introduce so many youngsters to the game has to be fun and rewarding, which is at the heart of why we all love sports in the end, right?