One of the most common questions I get from other parents is how we handle sports and traveling teams with such a big family. I’m not against travel sports, however, I think that there are some important conversations that families need to have before they embark on this journey. First, some sports are more demanding financially and also require more time from your child than you might be able to give. The best start is to interview coaches from various teams and understand their expectations about how often practice will be held and how often the team will travel. You may find that some teams are more flexible than others and won’t put such a burden on your ability to spend time as a family and your ability to pay your other bills.
The most important thing you can do based on my experience with 6 kids who all play sports and another one who most certainly will when he is old enough, is to have a family meeting regarding all of your sports decisions. We just had this meeting with one of our children and we explained the order of importance of things in his life:
When talking to your child, I recommend going through each subject and why they are important and what they mean to their future. I think most kids are old enough to be told that they should work hard in their sport but also be realistic and know that most sports careers come to an end when high school ends. As much as we want to believe differently, that is reality. Family life will be their foundation to a successful future. A positive relationship with parents and siblings helps a child learn more about life than anything they can learn traveling most weekends. Teamwork, discipline, and even good sportsmanship are all a part of a family that gets along and succeeds in long term relationships with another.
Schoolwork and its impact on a child’s future should seem obvious, but I have known families who are so busy with sports and traveling all over that their children do not do as well in school. I think those parents believe there will be a scholarship because their child is so good at a sport that their grades won’t matter as much. While a small minority of students will receive scholarship money for sports, they are usually not full rides and they can be cut from teams which ends the scholarship. Academic scholarships are much more common and can be sustained with continued hard work in college.
When making the decision about choosing sports, especially traveling teams, if your child understands that he must be exceeding in his family life and in his school life in order to play at this level, then I think a winning combination can be formed. If you set the expectation that you won’t allow them to continue with a high commitment to sports if they are mistreating family members or suffering in school, you might find that they step up in all areas of their life. You also must be willing to pull the plug on traveling teams or sports in general if it becomes too much for your child. Sometimes parents get so wrapped up in the concept of winning and potential scholarships for college, that they forget that the best recipe for a successful adult is a happy family and a successful education.