I’m the “mom with four boys who didn’t do sports”

images               As soon as my first-born was old enough to toddle, people began asking what sports we planned on signing Michael up for. Because Bryan was born only 16 months after Michael, I didn’t even consider signing him up–not because I had a huge objection, but simply because it seemed like it would be too stressful for me to get two little ones out of the house and entertain a baby while his big brother kicked a ball in the grass in the evening hours.


Was I depriving Michael of a valuable opportunity to learn teamwork, a soccer advantage perhaps, simply because I was a wimpy mom? He had an incredible throwing arm—was I sacrificing a baseball career? Maybe, but I certainly was less stressed at home and the boys enjoyed the rambling hours of parks, playgrounds, and backyard romping.


As the years passed and two more boys were added in quick succession, it became even more challenging to sign any of them up for sports. The idea of loading the four car seats with all the kids, managing sports fees, equipment, and clean uniforms, and performing the sideline chase was enough to keep us out of organized sports at least until no one was in diaimages-3pers. Certainly I “could” have done this. I managed similar feats, but I made the choice to wait in this area. Despite the messages of culture—we really CAN’T do it all.
During those early years, I remember another mom approached me and in a hushed tone whispered, “I hear that you don’t do sports with your boys…” She was feeling the pressure of a culture that makes an assumption that kids—especially boys—should be involved in sports before they start kindergarten. She had three boys and was feeling guilty about their lack of participation. Rather than boldly stating that the boys were perfectly happy and didn’t feel like they were “missing out,” I was the one who then felt guilty—but not for very long.


UnknownReally? I was known as “That mom with the four boys who don’t do sports?” I knew I was still not skilled enough to manage the four kids at sports practices nor did I want to disrupt our lives with random practices and game times, so I instead instituted “Sports Camp.” I hired a 12-year-old neighbor boy to come over once a week for an hour and teach the boys all the sports skills that they were missing out on. This was short lived because the neighbor boy ended up being talked out of sports skill teaching, and he was instead wooed to play with them in the forts in the woods out back. It was after that experience that I became convicted about sports and its role in my boys’ lives. (Disclaimer: this is my journey—not everyone’s.)


Sports, especially at an early age, are not for every kid. If you have a dandelion-pickeimagesr or a child with no interest, why push it? Teamwork and sportsmanship can be taught in many areas of life. Michael, beyond a few Indiana winters on a non-competitive basketball league, never played any sports. Yet through chess tournaments, school projects, and working, he learned how to work as a team and accept defeat with honor as well as victory with humility. At eighteen, he has no regrets. According to him, “I would have been an amazing pitcher. So what? I would have spent my childhood on dusty fields scattered across the Midwest. I would have missed camping weekends for tournaments and would have had a coach who dictated my life.”


Michael is the strong-willed child who has made wonderful choices for how he spends his free time. Organized sports were not for him. The next two boys followed the same path— enjoying their non-competitive winter basketball league when the family needed some cold-weather entertainment on the weekends, but they participated in no other sports the rest of the year.


But then came Matthew. We also waited until he was in second grade to sign him up for the same “No-one-knows-the-score-but-everyone-really-does” basketball league. In his first game he scored 28 points. Uh oh. His intensity and love for basketball pushed us out of our comfort zone to figure out what you did with a kid who had a love and an innate talent for a sport.


Now I’m sure that he would have had a love and a talent for football and soccer as well, but we kept our focus on basketball (climate controlled playing environment and we live in INDIANA). Since second grade, Matthew has played on a team that plays all year long with 1-2 practices a week and one game on the weekend. It has been expensive and time consuming, but we have been able to keep it manageable.  Matthew has been able to compete, but his sport is not the center of his world or our family’s.


A few thoughts to wrap-up:


  • Sports leagues have evolved over the past decades to become intense, expensive, all-consuming programs where games are dictated and then changed at the last minute and families are expected to adjust. Yet “just-for-fun” leagues are still available if you look.
  • You have the power to decide when to let your kids start playing sports. Don’t be pressured to start when you or they are not ready. Certainly, kids who start earlier “get ahead” faster, but a child with innate talent will catch up with time.
  • Each of your children is designed uniquely. IF they have been given a specific talent, you will see it with or without early sports programs. And even if they have a talent, like Michael’s pitching arm, even then you and the child can decide how to proceed.
  • Coaches have an incredible impact on kids—for better or for worse. I have witnessed screaming, temper-tantrum throwing coaches who have yelled at refs or verbally shredded kids on their own teams. As a parent we have a choice who our kids play for or if they play at all.
  • Cross Country has been an amazing experience for Bryan, my 16 year old, who started running in middle school. The stress level is usually much less intense and his middle school coaches were nurturing and encouraging of all the runners on the team of 100.
  • Please be careful to never put sports performance above your relationship with the child. I have witnessed horrible situations involving parents and sports. Cheer at their games because you enjoy watching them play—NO MATTER HOW THEY PLAY. It’s only a game and life is so much bigger.
  • Watch the budget. Parents can spend huge amounts of money on leagues, equipment, private coaching etc. in an attempt to get a scholarship. In reality they spend as much as they get for the scholarship. Find out about Michael’s hockey scholarship here.
  • Help your athlete understand the role of sports in who they are. Their identity is not summed up as “basketball player” or “cheerleader.” If this becomes the summation of who they are, then sports need to be altered to allow for healthy maturation and identity.


You are raising your child, and you can make decisions based on what is best for your entire family. Sports can teach kids plenty, but so can life. Keep a firm grasp on the big picture—you are raising a man or a woman who will go out into the world to bring glory to God. Use sports as part of your work, but don’t let sports use you.


I’m the “mom with four boys who didn’t do sports”











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