We live in a country where sports have become a top priority. The NFL, MLB and NBA are all billion dollar industries. Young folks, barely out of the womb, are participating in community leagues, YMCA sports, travel teams public school teams and private club organizations. Every parent hopes (even for just a moment) that their child might be recognized and given a scholarship. However, most college recruiters are not even looking at public schools or even at club sports to find their new recruits. Instead, high schools, specializing in a particular sport, are becoming increasingly popular and families are relocating to get their children into these schools.
And homeschoolers are not immune to the sports industry. State education departments are being challenged to allow homeschool students to play on public school teams. That is a different discussion and different blog, but many homeschool parents who don’t want their children in public school classrooms realize that playing on public school teams is not going to be a positive experience either.
So in an effort to provide sports opportunities for homeschooled students, basketball, football and other sports teams are springing up exclusively for homeschooled students. While some are purely recreational, most are becoming increasingly competitive. That means more practices, more games and more tournaments. Parents can be on the road four or five nights a week since students can’t practice after school and be picked up later. The basketball season lasts from the end of November through early March and can be taxing on parents, especially those parents trying to make sure that their children are well educated. Co-ops become difficult, on-line classes become challenging and local community college classes can be compromised because of the practicing and games.
So, what is a family to do? Our family has done over 15 years of sports. We have been a gymnastics family, did the football thing for a year and have settled into being a basketball family. If I had it to do all over again, my children would not play sports OR we would just do community sports. WHY? Let me explain.
First, now that we are on the other side, we realize that we were poor nutritionists during this time of traveling. Fast food, quick sandwiches, and ‘eating on the run’ took us away from those regular family dinners where we would talk, recount our day and regroup. My husband and I are usually the only ones around the table today, since our children are grown and all work or are involved in activities. But that time came A LOT sooner because of sports. This ‘eating on the run’ also took a toll on our family budget. We would spend $100-$150 in fast food each month when we were doing sports. I’d like to say I’m better at this now, but I do try to plan a little more these days.
Second, I have continual knee and back problems that are worsened when I drive a lot. While I don’t have an official diagnosis, I just know that these problems escalate when I am in the car for an hour or two each day. Playtime, recreational time and just outdoor fresh air were traded for being in the car with artificial air and comfy bucket seats. My kids have also inherited some life-long conditions due to injuries on the court or in the gym.
Third, the homework suffered. My kids would rush through work or maybe not get it done at all. I wished for teachers that would give less during basketball season, but that wasn’t going to happen. One day I realized I had a problem when I became angry at the teacher for assigning work. Hmmmm….
Fourth, we spent WAY too much money on sports. My daughter’s competitive gymnastics lasted six years and we could have paid for a couple years of college with that money. We hoped that maybe she could get a scholarship, but she quit after 8th grade and was nowhere near the level she needed to be for college. Scholarships are few and far between.
And finally, with 3 children in or through college, we have come to realize that while sports scholarships are rare, academic scholarships are not. All of my children did well in school and went on to college, well prepared to study and learn. You see, we had PUSHED them. We didn’t give in and made them do the work, even if I wanted to curse at the teacher for giving extra. And, in the end, they knew how to study, they knew how to manage their time, and they knew how to talk to their teachers, asking questions and clarifying the homework. They excelled and made excellent grades and that is when the scholarships came. My oldest son had about 35% of his senior year covered by scholarships.
I’m not trying to be a ‘Debbie Downer’ and discourage parents from sports. Kids need that outlet, but perhaps community sports may be a better idea. Practices are limited to your local school and games are minimal each week. Or consider the YMCA for their participating leagues. And, if you do decide on a homeschool or more competitive league, consider the following:
Sports and sports teams are not going away. But, if we can learn to manage the load, we can save our sanity.