Commitment in Youth Sports

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Stats Dad posted a very interesting question in a series of posts about sports specialization at an early age:

“Is it fair to commit to two different teams in the same season?

Fair to the respective coaches, fair to both sets of teammates,

fair to other parents who spend a lot of money to be on a team with high expectations?”

Recently, I’ve struggled quite a bit with this very issue.  As you may know, both my girls play year round club soccer at a high level.  They are both on the “A” team for their age groups and have worked hard to earn and keep their spots.  We don’t commit to anything but church, school and soccer.  (They’ve also done girls scouts at times) Any free time they have is spent playing with friends, hanging out and time with the family.  I guess it sounds crazy, but they play futsal (indoor soccer) once a week, have practice twice a week, attend a striking session once a week and then usually play games on the weekend.  Every new season we discuss whether they want to continue and that they need to make their team a top priority- that means attending every practice and working hard to excel.  I believe you owe that to a team and for a team to be successful every player needs to make that kind of commitment.

That’s not to say that I disagree with girls playing other sports.  In our area, softball is also very popular and there’s a girl on our little team that plays both.  Her parents have been very upfront about her commitment to softball and our coach has been very accommodating.  She will miss several important scrimmages and some training sessions, but her commitment to the team is evident in her parents’ communication and effort to bring her to every event possible.  Her softball will finish before our summer tournament season really gets started.  Would she have developed quicker if she didn’t miss so much to play softball?  Would the team be better with her there?  I believe the answer to both questions is yes, but she is a hard working little girl and will catch up.

Something that does bother me is parents trying to fit too many things into their kids’ lives.  We have friends who I just love, but their daughter never seems to have time to breathe.  They have kept her playing recreational “select” soccer along with club and she is able to play “up.”  I know that she has had a great time playing with those girls, but I feel that it has had a negative impact on our team.  They’ve been in the same futsal league and it’s always an issue if she’s going to play with our girls or her other team.  Our coach recently let them know that she can’t play against her club team so she either needs to play with us or skip the game.  The whole thing just gives me a pit in my stomach- especially because I like them so much!

So my answer to Stat Dad’s question is no, I don’t think it’s fair to commit to two different teams in the same season- especially to the other kids on the team.  I think that kids who would like to play two sports consecutively should play on lower level teams so that someone who is 100% committed gets the spot on the top team.  If the sports are not during the same season, I think that it can be worked out as long as the parents and coach have good communication and the parents go the extra mile to make sure that the child gets to as many events for both teams as possible.  But, having said that, it’s every parents’ job to figure out what is right for their child and I completely respect that.  I also believe the coach needs to do what’s right for their team and not include players who are going to not be able to commit during the season.  Playing two sports during the same season may be very beneficial for the player, but not for the team.

What do you think?  Does your child play more than one sport at the same time?

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12 thoughts on “Commitment in Youth Sports

  1. Hi, I love your site as we have one DD in club soccer and it’s still a “new” process for us. We did two sports last year in our first year of club and it definitely hurt our daughter’s soccer development. Now she is down to just soccer and I worry if that is the right choice for her. She doesn’t want to try other sports even though we ask her quite often. Thinking about basketball this winter since it is a relatively short season. On another topic wondering if you would comment regarding guest players. We went to a tournament this weekend where one team had two players guest playing for the summer from Hawaii. I wonder what the other parents on the team think about this-loss of potential play time for their player, what about financially do the guest players contribute to cost of participating in tournaments? I hear these players are staying through Surf Cup. I have heard that this can be a positive experience for players on team-learning from new players, meeting new friends, but I wonder if potential conflicts outweigh positives…

    • Hi Krista- Nice to “meet” you! I know it’s so hard to decide what to do regarding playing more than one sport. My girls aren’t interested and there’s only so many places one person can be at one time!

      I know guest players can be a really sticky situation. Wow, having two girls for the whole summer really makes an impact on the team. I would think that they would be contributing financially at least something to pay for coaching, tourney costs, etc… My big soccer girl has had many different guests but it’s been primarily for recruiting purposes which is a bit different.

      A post about this is definitely in order!

  2. Believe it or not, this also happens in swimming! We have kids who compete on the competitive summer team and then also compete on their neighborhood teams so they can “win” everything. We had an issue with this recently because a friend of my daughters who does both teams was running around bragging that she was the fastest kid in our neighborhood. My daughter is actually quite a bit faster than her and being an immature 12 year old she wanted to “prove” it. I told her to prove it in the pool, not in a race. She made the zones team the following weekend.

    My middle daughter is dedicated to soccer but also swims. Soccer always take priority over soccer, soccer is a team sport and people count on her. Swimming is not. Both coaches know and there are never any hard feelings.

    • Thanks for the comment- I agree about “winning” everything as a motivator for being on the recreational/neighborhood teams. Of course your daughter wanted to “prove it”…good for her for making the zones team! I think this issue is going to continue to become more of a problem as parents are wanting their kids to compete in more and more activities/sports. It sounds like you have a great situation with soccer and swimming…I’m sure her soccer team appreciates it.

      • Sarah’s soccer coach is constantly having to apologize to parents when they “lose”. Sarah shrugs it off, we are swimmers too. Swimmers pretty much always lose. That is what makes them better.

        I refuse to put my kids in an environment where they win all the time. I like the competitive environment. I don’t care if they always lose, so long as they constantly improve!

  3. I saw this on my daughter’s club soccer team this past season. It’s a great developmental program and my daughter is the youngest member, so she’s got a lot of work to do to get to what I’d call a “high level.” But, she has a ton of fun and our family is committed to giving her the opportunities to develop as a player.

    The issue I saw was that a couple girls split their time between the club team, other teams, and/or other sports. Our most advanced player played on a city rec team in addition to our team. We also had another player splitting time between soccer and gymnastics. This resulted in us playing many games with no substitutes. I liked that because my daughter, despite her experience, was on the field a LOT this season. However, you could easily see the impact this had on our players. They were pooped!

    So, I also think it’s not right to split time between sports/teams. If you want to diversify, you shouldn’t be on a “serious” team. After all, isn’t that why we pay to have our kids play on these travel/academy teams? We want serious commitment from parents, coaches, and our kids.

    • Definitely- I think playing a club team sport should require that to be a top priority and then have other activities fit around it. My girls have also played games without subs…it’s definitely tiring, but more than that, they feel like their teammates have let them down. Thanks!

  4. Great post – SoCal Soccer Moms. I would love to go back to a world were soccer is played in the fall, basketball / volleyball in the winter and softball in the spring and summer – and school ball did not compete with club ball – so that my daughter CC can play all of the sports without conflicts. The youth sports world is nuts.

    We are not going to specialize – sampling (playing more than one sport) is so beneficial – what we are going to do is pick a lead sport – probably soccer and then play on the B – Club team for basketball with full transparency to the coach of that team. If my daughter decides later to focus on basketball, she would be able to catch up again – who knows she might play volleyball or softball – the world wide open to her.

    • Thanks! I totally agree that it’s nuts…you sound like you are doing all the right things. I’m encouraging both my girls to try volleyball this summer. My older daughter is the same age as yours- they are so young to just pick one thing.

    • I agree with Stats Dad’s strategy of picking a “lead sport.” That’s sort of what we’re doing with my daughter. Soccer is the focus, but church dance group and recreational gymnastics can be fit in on off days.

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