05 Mar Is This Youth Sports Thing A Waste Of Time And Money?
It’s 5:30am on a Saturday morning and your alarm goes off.
It’s time to make that first tournament game at 8:00am.
Yes, it’s early, but what’s worse is, you’re dreading the tedious drive to the tournament fields that are out of state, and for some reason, located in the middle of a farm next to a vacant Shell gas station.
You rush to pack snacks and drinks for the kids. KIND bars, oranges, trail mix, apples, carrots, water, Gatorade.
You rummage through the house to ensure they have all of their equipment packed.
All five colors of uniforms.
A left foot cleat.
A right foot cleat.
You rush as you make sure you’re prepared yourself.
Credit card for hotel deposit.
Cash for tournament concession stand.
A second credit card for Applebee’s team dinner.
This much I know: being a youth sports parent requires an immense amount of time and money.
There’s never a minute wasted on the clock, nor is there ever a dull moment in the bank account.
From practices, to games, to tournaments, to training sessions, to two speed coaches, to skills coaches, to clinics, to ID camps, it’s overwhelming.
Moreover, it’s scary to think that all of this time and money might not pay off.
What if your kid doesn’t make it?
What if they don’t get a scholarship?
What if they quit their sport by the time they reach high school?
What if they become an artist, Instagram influencer, designer, photographer, or gamer instead?
What if this was a waste, after all?
Look. I get it. It’s scary to look on the horizon and live life in panic with the thought of your kid not succeeding in their sport, or worse yet, calling it quits one day.
All of the credit card swipes to hotels, skills trainers, speed coaches, and club dues down the drain.
All of the weekends traveling to games wasted.
All of the gas money eaten up.
Oh, come on. Quit being all dramatic.
As much as you think this is all a waste of time and money, it’s not. Even if your kid decides to quit one day, not go D1 or to the pros, it was all worth it.
Perspective, to that end, is a beautiful concept when it comes to youth sports.
Sure, the end goal is commendable and I urge young players to reach high and work to achieve their dreams.
Playing college soccer is an incredibly rewarding and exuberant experience that I wish for every player to experience one day.
But, not everyone will make it.
Whether this is due to the competitive landscape today, or the lack of intrinsic motivation within the young athlete, or simply, a change of heart, some will continue with the game, some won’t.
And both are okay.
The last thing I want parents to see is their child quitting as a failure.
And I understand it’s painful to see your neighbor posting their kid’s college commitment to a D1 program on your Facebook newsfeed.
And I get it’s hard to tell them your child quit their sport after they judged you for how much time you invested into their athletic lives.
And I get it’s cringeworthy looking at your depleted bank account.
The more you own the purpose of youth sports, no matter what the result, the more you serve your young athlete, and help them stay in alignment with who they choose to be as a human.
The purpose of youth sports being, the joy of working for something meaningful, even if for a finite moment in time.
Yes, youth sports is as fleeting as a cloud in the sky, and not meant to last forever.
Alas, so is everything in life.
As a personal example, I was a top clarinet player from middle school until senior year of high school. First chair. All-county band. All-state band.
Did my parents fork out money on private music lessons? Yes.
Did I spent hours practicing on my own? Yes.
Was this a waste of money and time because I quit one day? No.
In retrospect, the creative skills I learned from being able to read music, improvise, and sightread gave me the same right-brained skills to be a prolific writer and content creator today.
Moreover, I gained the confidence through my solos and competitions when all eyes were on me. I learned to be critiqued and judged under pressure.
It’s never a waste to try something new, learn a skill, commit to it for a length of time, quit, but then carry it over into other pursuits when you must step into your authenticity and own who you are.
And taking the conversation back to youth sports, was it a waste to bring your kids to a coach where they had a blast at practices?
Was it a waste to take them to tournaments and expose them to high pressure situations?
Was it as waste to introduce them to new role models?
Was it a waste to put them on a new team and teach them to adapt to new social environments?
Was it a waste to pay for a performance coach and show them the habit of healthy living and movement?
Was it a waste to take them to practices and games and keep them out of the “bad crowd” in middle and high school?
Was it a waste when they found a love for health and fitness?
I think not.
Truthfully, the best place to get to as a youth sports parent is an I-support-you-no-matter-what-you-decide place.
When things don’t work out, when the scholarship doesn’t come, when the pro contract isn’t signed, people are quick to utter, “well, that was a waste!”
What about the fond memories, the travel, the memories?
What about the creativity, the brain connections, the problem solving skills?
What about the competition, the challenge, the adversity?
What about the family time, joy, and laughs?
That reminds me. Some of my best memories as a young soccer player were singing in the car with my mom on the way to tournaments, and getting quality time with her.
Shout out, mom!
So I urge you: enjoy the journey and appreciate the richness that comes with it.
But more critically, maintain perspective that no matter what the end result, time and money were not wasted. And taking sports out of the equation, your child’s unique character, essence, and gems are buried deep inside them.
Admittedly, I’ve never had someone regret investing in youth sports or fitness.
Especially if they received quality coaching, met new friends, learned healthy habits, how to handle challenges, and how to be team players, they looked back fondly on all the amazing times and life lessons.
Nothing is a waste. Ever.