Thursday, May 28, 2009

Are we burning our children out?

On my way to taking Audrey to school today I caught an interview on the radio with Tom Farrey. He wrote a book about how we, Americans, are pushing our kids to become 'world class' athletes and we are burning our kids out. The book is really surrounding the sport of soccer, but his argument can easily be transitioned into many other sports [ie. baseball, basketball, hockey, lacrosse].

This got me thinking this morning. Am I burning my child out? Am I pushing her to become the best athlete or do I just want her to have fun? After a morning of really thinking about it, I am convinced that I just want her to have fun. She is 7 years old for crying out loud.

Audrey is involved with cheer leading. It involves a ton of different disciplines and requires practice to become a good cheer leader, and as I think more about it, there are a ton of mom's there watching and coaching from the sidelines. They are coaching from the bench, rather than letting the coaches do their thing.

I think it does come down to coaching. Are the coaches really setting up the kids for success? I think so. Audrey's coach is fantastic. She barks orders, demands respect, but she also makes sure the kids have fun in the end. At this point Audrey can do a cartwheel [barely], the splits [with ease], but isn't too good at much else, and I am cool with that. She still wants to go [most days] and have fun. They all look up to the older girls and they all try to emulate them. But still the fact remains, the parents of my daughter's team, want to win. This past year, her team went exhibition. That means they go to the competitions and perform, they are judged, but they are not ranked. They get the experience but not the pressure to win, her coaches are doing the right thing The parents want to go for trophies, the glory, maybe something they have missed from their childhood?

I am cool with Audrey competing for real but not until she moves up to the next level. Now I realize she needs to work to get to the next level, but so many parents want to put the skills up against another gym. It's just another 'keeping up with the Jones' scenario. It's great to say that my child is in the best gym with the most medals, but seriously, if the kids are having fun, then great, and if the coach is great, then that's even better. Winning doesn't mean better all the time. I watched 3 girls have panic attacks on stage during a competition from a competing gym. The girls didn't smile unless they were performing. The girls from my gym were having fun, smiling, and they may have not won, but then again, their parents are paying for anxiety medication either.

So this leads me to the end. Let kids be kids. When it comes to winning, save it for when they are older, like double digit ages, but don't put SO much pressure on winning that it dilutes what kids want to do, play with toys, ride bikes, and have fun. They aren't supposed to have full time jobs, and all these parents who have their kids in Summer Leagues, Winter Leagues, Spring Leagues, school sports, and they have all these practices, is just like giving them a full time job.


Julie said...

I absolutely agree, It's like some of these kids in the horse shows, they make it out like if they don't win they'll die, and they're so serious, I would like to some day get a ribbon (and how about I am way older then any of these girls are and I am just starting out) but I'm not going to die if I don't it's all in the fun and experience. Besides at my age the competition is sort of less intimidating and more about just being able to do it. and that's my "two cents"


Shawnee's Girl said...

I also have to agree. I think that lessons in anything (be it music, horseback riding, or another sport, yes, I think that cheerleading is as much of a sport as riding) are wonderful things, but if you are putting so much pressure on the child that it isn't having fun, then it goes from teaching lots of good lessons to being stressful and difficult. I am very lucky that every time I decided I had enough with riding for a while, my parents let me stop. They taught me enough (with help from Shawnee) that when I was ready to ride for myself and not for someone else that I could do that. We need to listen to how our kids feel about what they are doing and not live vicariously through them, pushing them to a breaking point.

calicolyst said...

Let's put them to work in the coal mines like back in the 1800s, and then see how people feel about them playing too many sports.