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Are her kids starting sports too early?

Written by Leslie Means

Written By:  Leslie Means

I practiced hard that year.  Every time I visited my friend’s home, we would immediately head outside to her basketball court.  We spent hours back there, dribbling, shooting and doing drills. 

It was all in an effort to prepare for the new season of 6th grade basketball.

There was only one small problem.  Mom and Dad wouldn’t let me play any sports until 7th grade.

Surely if I practiced enough and showed them my potential they would change their minds and let me have a shot at it. 

My childhood friend had it all planned out.  She would write a letter to my parents explaining my talents; begging, pleading them to change their minds. 

“Don’t let her talents go to waste,” she said.

“My parents will pick her up and even bring her to the games,” she begged.

In the end, it almost worked. 

Almost.

Mom and Dad appreciated my friend’s gesture and thought it was impressive she had put so much thought into this plan to get me on the basketball court.  But there was just one problem.

Nothing would change my parents’ minds.

And so I had to wait one more year before I had my chance to shine on the court.  Thing is, I didn’t shine.  Heck, I hardly had a glimmer.  Instead, I became the type of basketball player who enjoyed being on a team, working hard and socializing with the boys after the games. 

Yes, I sat the bench.

I had a few parents tell me they thought I could have been a much better player had I started practicing at a younger age. 

“You have so much potential,” they would utter.  “It’s too bad.”

At the time, I believed them.  “If only I had started playing earlier like the rest of my friends,” I thought.  “I could have been a star.”

Today, I know that’s not true.  3-4 more years wouldn’t have made me taller or made me have a better average on the free throw line.  I just didn’t have it.  To be honest, very few of my friends really “had” it either, even though they played years before me. 

Those 3-4 years of not competing in sports allowed me to have more weekend camp-outs, long summer bike rides, 4-H outings and nightly swims at our local pool.  

My parents’ discipline let me be a kid for just a little bit longer.

As an adult with two little girls of my own, it all makes sense.  I now understand the decision my parents made and I’m thankful for it. 

But I’m torn.

I’ve been told times have changed drastically in 20 years.  Not long ago a mother came up to me and said, “Leslie, Ella’s 4 now.  You might want to get her into some type of activity.”

This concept baffles me.  I want my girls to have a chance to be little girls, but I don’t want them to miss out, either.  Ella already knows. 

“Mama, my friend at daycare is in dance class.  Why can’t I dance?”

Or, “Watch me jump and run, Mama,” she exclaimed after watching the Olympic Games on television.

 “I bet she would be good at gymnastics,” I told Kyle.  “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to put her in a class.” 

Kyle agrees, as I knew he would.  After all, he was the kid playing sports at a young age.  He thinks it’s something kids should do.

“Our girls’ childhood doesn’t have to be exactly like yours, Les,” he’s said on occasion.

“True,” I respond.  “But I’m pretty sure mine was one of the best.  It couldn’t hurt.”

In the future I will probably give in.  I’ll let my girls play soccer and basketball at a young age if they want. They’ll have a great time and might even become a decent athlete who doesn’t just sit the bench.  And I’ll be there, cheering them on every step of the way. 

But through all those activities, until the day they leave our home, I’ll be fighting for their chance to be a kid just a bit longer. 

What do you think?  Should kids be in sports at an early age or do you wait until they are older?  Have times changed?  Is every kid in an activity at a young age?  I seriously have no idea!  🙂  Help!

Read more articles from Leslie online in the Kearney Hub.

P.S. Here I am – High School Basketball Glamour Shot.  Complete with red lipstick and a pose just so.  Doesn’t this scream die hard b-ball player?

About the author

Leslie Means

Leslie is the co-founder and owner of Her View From Home.com. She is also a former news anchor, published children’s book author, weekly columnist, and has several published short stories as well.

She is married to a very patient man. Together they have two pretty fantastic little girls ages 8 and 6 and one little dude born March 2017!

When she’s not sharing too much personal information online and in the newspaper – you’ll find Leslie somewhere in Nebraska hanging out with family and friends. There’s also a 75% chance at any given time, you’ll spot her in the aisles at Target.

7 Comments

  • I’m also torn about this for my kids. My son is 5 and we have not started him in any sports because hasn’t showed it much interest, with the exception of basketball.
    I think now that he’s in kindergarten we will let him pick a sport to join, not because I think it will make him a better athlete if he starts young, but because I think he would enjoy the social aspect of it and will help him learn teamwork and sportsmanship. And if the place we choose to go makes it too competitive or all about the game at his young age, I’ll will search to find a place where it’s more about having fun than being an all star athlete.
    I think I’ll start my daughter in dance early, just because my girl danced and sang before she could walk or talk. I think she will love it and the end of the year recitals with the little girls are so darn cute. 🙂

  • Leslie,

    Some of my favorite memories of my childhood are playing sports!! 🙂
    I wasn’t an Olympic athlete, but I did start on several teams. Did it make me a better person in the long run? Probably not. I think times have changes. I didn’t have to be ‘serious’ about it as a 4-year-old. I don’t remember when I started playing basketball or volleyball.

  • I don’t think it’s a question of getting the kids involved with sports, rather getting kids involved with something…You mentioned dance or gymnastics. I don’t think it hurts to get them involved with one or two activities when they are younger, but save the “every activity you can possibly get involved in” attitude for later when they can help decided what they can handle. Just because you weren’t in bball when you were a kid doesn’t mean you weren’t involved in things–4-H, helping on the farm, swimming pool–so you did get time with your friends. I (as you know) am NOT really athletic at all after dislocating my knees more times than I can count, but I don’t regret not having those sports growing up because I did have 4-H, FFA, speech etc. that kept me entertained… My suggestion? You&the hubby should look into a few different activities you think Ella might be interested in and ask her which ONE she’d like to try for 6 months? A year? You decide the time she should stick with it to see if she’ll like it…if after that time she likes/doesn’t like/seems to be handling well, change/add/keep up the activity until things change:)