Last fall, I wrote a post entitled Why I Said No to Organized Sports. It seemed like such an easy choice then, taking my older boys out of their secondary sports to free up our schedule for their younger siblings to play soccer. After my son’s Crohn’s diagnosis in December, we made the more difficult decision to pull him off the travel team for baseball, his primary sport, in favor of having more family time and to monitor his condition.
His coach came to the house this spring and asked us to reconsider (we still said no), and made our son an honorary member of the team, calling him up when they were short players for tournaments. It was hard to say no the first time; it was even harder to say no the second time, knowing how much he was valued by his coach and teammates. Their team went on to have a successful season without our son, though, and when we approached tryouts for next year this past week, I feared that he may not even have the opportunity to play for the travel team.
However, our son had two great tryouts, and we were forced once again to decide: would he play on the travel team or not? I just got off the phone with the commissioner to once again say no, he would not be available to play for them.
If it had been up to me, I would have said yes, but as part of a parental unit, I deferred to my husband’s better judgment. Even my son is okay with the decision, even though he really wanted to play for them. Why then do I feel so terrible?
There is something so hard about holding our children back from success. As parents, we are expected to raise our children to be the best they can be. We push them to get good grades for scholarships, to practice and play hard for their teams, to work their way up the ladder in life. So, when they do their best, succeed, and have the opportunity to advance, it seems counter-intuitive to then say, “No, you will stay in the good, not great, zone. We won’t foot the bill for weekend tournaments and extra practices to be on the ‘better’ team. We want you to value family time, to work hard at home, to practice on your own, to wait to be great.”
As Paris, the daughter in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 says, “Why do parents always say ‘dream big’ when they really mean ‘not too big’? Like, ‘Fly, little birdy. Wait, no, let me hold your wings.'”
As I got off the phone, I felt as though I stripped away his opportunity to be a great baseball player; that I took something from him that he earned; that I relegated him to the ranks of “ordinary”. I worry that the opportunity to play for the travel team won’t be available to him next year because we said “no” one too many times. I fear that he will be left behind, because of us.
And yet, I see the value of our decision, too. We have had a great summer this year. Every weekend, that for the past few years had been filled with baseball, was now wide open. We have enjoyed going to the beach and the pool, visiting family, exploring caves, mini-golfing, and relaxing together as a family. We could have been traveling back and forth to tournaments, sitting out in the blazing heat, boring our other children to tears, in order to watch our son play additional baseball. Was it worth it to say no this year? Yes. Yes.
There is also the cost. Organized sports are not cheap. For him to play on both his regular team and the travel team costs over $500 (not including gas), much of which he has to earn by working for us (he’s only 11). Unfortunately, we didn’t see much initiative from him this summer to work and make money for his activities, which bears its own consequences for next year. We would like to see him take responsibility for his activities by working hard to earn them. We believe our children will make better choices about what to be involved in, and will take them more seriously, when they have personally invested in them.
So, as hard as it is to hold him back, I see the greater value to both him and our family as a whole. We are saying yes to the things that really matter: family, work, and personal responsibility. I have to believe that those will pay greater dividends than being on a travel team would. It doesn’t make the decision any easier, but deep down, I know it was the right one.
Have you ever said no to a great opportunity for your child? How did you come to that decision?