Monday, December 02, 2013

Team sports may be fun, but lazy days are delightful

From Friday's Briefing:

It’s officially gift-buying and gift- giving season, but for months I’ve already been enjoying one of the best gifts ever: the gift of no weekend sporting events.
I realize that this is borderline sacrilege in my chosen community, the land of competitive cheer and soccer, hardcore hockey and volleyball, serious softball and baseball, cutthroat lacrosse and football.
I’m no stranger to the parental sacrifices of Saturdays and sometimes Sundays (not to mention weeknight practices). Cooper was a longtime member of a soccer team that was an extension of our family. Katie has dabbled in sports — soccer for a while, then gymnastics, then basketball.
For eight years, our lives partly revolved around recreational sports schedules. When birthday party invitations arrived, I would hold my breath while opening the envelope. Would schedules collide, forcing a decision between a game or celebration?
Same with Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts events. Possible weekend trips out of town. Children’s theater performances. New museum exhibits. Plain ol’ time to relax at home.
This autumn, though, has been the first since 2005 that we haven’t been beholden to a weekend sports calendar. Cooper is playing tennis at school. Katie jumps rope and runs at school. Not a single Saturday or Sunday sports date.
It’s been a welcome gift.
Some Saturdays we have slept late.
We have stayed in pajamas past 8 a.m.
We have ventured to the Dallas Arboretum to explore the new Children’s Adventure Garden. We stayed as long as we wanted, not worrying about getting back to Frisco in time to suit up.
We have gone to a movie in the middle of the afternoon. We have lazed about at the public library.
We have played Skip-Bo and Sequence at the kitchen table. We have baked homemade cowboy cookies.
We have camped at the lake.
I have still ferried children to extracurricular practices, competitions and performances — but with less stress because there are fewer overlapping commitments.
I’m certainly not anti-team sports. There’s great value in children working together toward a common goal, in parents practicing the art of silence so coaches can coach, and in children and parents learning to win and to lose with grace.
I don’t necessarily regret the hours spent driving to and from fields and the hours on the sidelines. But if new parents were to ask for my advice, I would caution them to evaluate how much time they want to devote to a child’s pastime and how much time they want for everything else.
It’s not an easy decision to make, especially when the competition seems to get a little fiercer a little earlier every year.
We have a third-grade friend who wanted to try basketball for the first time this year. She was on a team with other first-time third-grade basketball players.
Her fledgling team was destroyed by veteran teams. The new team would lose games by more than 30 points. In the third grade. Because they had apparently started playing too late to be competitive. Washed up at age 8.
My own third-grader hasn’t played weekend basketball for a couple of years. I no longer worry that there’s ignored latent athletic talent in Katie, gifts that need to be developed now or else they will never be seen again.
I’m not forcing her to try more sports. If she asks, we’ll consider it. If she doesn’t, I rest easy knowing that middle school isn’t too far away, and that she’ll have access to middle school programs and coaches.
In the meantime, I’m enjoying the unexpected gift of more time.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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