Driving kids to and from practices can be one thing, but parents can sometimes haul their offspring from one sport to another to another all in the same day.
They watch their child fall asleep at the dinner table. They have to remind a son or daughter to do homework or simple chores. It can be draining on the parent.
The constant grind of being on the go, when a parent may have a job themselves or just want to have a life of their own, can also wear on any person.
The Leavenworth Times spoke to a parents Ashley Huckabee, Laurie Holden, Wendy and Sean Sachen and Dan Sachse, who have had multiple children play in a number of sports and have seen how this lifestyle affects those involved.
What is the hardest aspect of committing to more than one sport?
Huckabee: “The hardest part of committing to more than one sport is time management. All of this rolls into how they manage their time on and off the field. To their sleeping habits, study habits and being able to juggle just being a normal kid. They have to find a balance between all of those things, but some days it's hard to find the balance depending on the day/night of games, practice, tests and other extra-curricular activities.”
Holden: “Time management is the hardest part of committing to more than one sport and/or extracurricular activity. Kids need to be busy but not stressed. The hard part comes in prioritizing overlapping requirements. School work needs to be at the top of the priority list. We would talk about overlapping activities and make our kids work out the details with coaches and teachers when there were conflicts. Made a house rule that games take priority over practices if there was a direct conflict.”
Sean Sachen: “I think that showing coaches that you are committed to them while in season, but are committed to other sports while in those season(s) can be difficult.”
Wendy Sachen: “Definitely, time management whether one sport or more in parallel with school is the hardest commitment, especially when you are still the primary mode of transportation to and from multiple activities. It’s not uncommon to go from playing in a game or match of one sport and heading over to a practice right after, or practice after school to practice for a club sport, sometimes eating in the car. We have been lucky to have some coaches that do emphasize the importance of family and team bonding so our kids can just be kids. Our family tries our best to keep summer weekends reserved for family now that we don’t have ball tournaments. But that is not doable for competitive basketball, softball, baseball, etc. So hopefully those families are getting quality family time and making memories while they are traveling.”
Sachse: “As a parent, the summer schedule has gotten out of control. You have to have both parents committed to getting kids to practices and games.”
Was this something you encouraged? If so, why? If not, how do you feel about it?
Huckabee: “We've always encouraged our kids to play sports. It's a great way for my kids to make friends especially with our kids being military kids. Both of our kids have played multiple sports over the years, but never in the same season. If they decided they didn't want to play the sport, we certainly didn't force them to continue playing something they didn't enjoy. However, they never quit during the season.”
Holden: “We did encourage our kids to be busy and be involved in things that interested them. Those interests changed over the years and were not always things we participated in as children ourselves.”
Sean Sachen: “I've always encouraged all kids to play as many sports as you can. You only get the opportunity once.”
Wendy Sachen: “Absolutely. I don’t think I have to lecture anyone on the physical and developmental benefits of using different muscle groups and how overuse of the same muscle groups can be so damaging. As parents we encouraged our kids when they were younger to try anything they wanted. How will you ever find your God-given talents if you don’t try? It just so happens that our children enjoy a plethora of different activities, not because they were good at it because that was not always the case, but because they were blessed with awesome teammates and coaches. They made friends, great memories and it was exciting to be a part of something special yet different with every program.”
Sachse: “We certainly encourage multiple sports in our family. It was great for all of our kids to get to experience junior high and high school sports in every season. Since the kids were at Xavier and Immaculata, it is/was very important that they do every sport not just for themselves but to help out their classmates and school teams so they could be competitive. It was all very disappointing to me when girls gave up on high school basketball even though their classmates were counting on them to go out and make the team stronger.”
Do you ever watch your child and say “If only they focused on one sport?”
Huckabee: “There are times I wish they would focus on the sport at hand, but for the most part my kids are equal and committed to the sport and their teammates. Just have to find the balance between them.”
Holden: “Not really. I never have bought into what I call the Tiger Woods phenomenon where a parent can make their kid a superstar. We did put our kids in the best opportunities for things they were interested in doing which included club sports and private lessons.”
Sean Sachen: “The best athletes are those who compete in more than one sport. Currently, Aaron Judge in New York has wowed the baseball world. He was an all-state basketball player and a very highly recruited football player in high school.”
Wendy Sachen: “No. It’s really a part of their own work ethic and athleticism. If you work hard and put forth the effort you can be as good as you want to be within your physical abilities. You can’t teach someone to be tall, but you can teach them how to be relentless, determined, strategic and how to defeat someone who is physically dominant. I’d rather my kids see different playing fields, struggle, know what it’s like to sit the bench and learn how to be a good teammate, a good loser, adapt, overcome and be humble as a champion. That is what’s going to help them be successful in life and understand that we all have ups and downs. It’s how you handle the obstacles in your way that defines you and you learn from.”
Sachse: “I think playing volleyball makes you a better basketball and track athlete and so on. I’m a firm believer that playing football makes you so much tougher on the basketball court as well.”
Who should specialize in one sport?
Holden: “I don’t think anyone should only focus on one sport. Sports medicine is seeing more and more overuse injuries in kids and this is directly related to the early specialization of only one sport. I really feel that we are going to start to see a trend moving away from one-sport athletes. The scholarship issue and playing a sport in college is tricky. We have never had the pressure of expectation that the activities that the kids were involved in growing up were so that they can get a scholarship. I firmly believe that if a kid is passionate about a sport or activity, they can pursue those at most colleges. I think that when parents think about scholarships they are thinking free education and big-name schools. There is such a range of opportunities out there based on skill levels that if it is your child’s dream to play in college that can happen, just might not be D1 or cover costs. The flipside where I see parent pressure is club/travel sports are expensive.”
Sean Sachen: “Kids who only want to play one sport.”
Wendy Sachen: “The 99.9 percent of all professional athletes. So, until you are getting paid, do it all. Be active in your school and competitive sports as many as you can successfully with good time management. As a coach, I have never meet a single college coach that said ‘I want an athlete that only plays one sport.’ They do however say ‘What is their GPA and what else do they play?’”
Sachse: “I think the only reason to focus on one sport is because you are at a very large school and if you don't spend all your time playing basketball then you probably won’t make the team. I have seen a lot of kids focus on one sport and I often wonder why they weren’t so much better when that’s all they did?
Burnout. Is it real? What causes burnout?
Huckabee: “Yes, burnout is real. Having no break between sports can cause burn out for sure, every kid needs time to be a kid. When we don't allow them to be kids that's when things can really go downhill.”
Holden: “Burnout can be real. It is an individual experience. It is about the relationships, group dynamics and success/failure your child experiences.”
Sean Sachen: “I think burnout is caused by a combination of many number of factors – overzealous parents who push kids too hard to be perfect at too young of an age, playing for transactional coaches who care only about winning. I think focusing on only one sport can cause burnout as well. It is real. I've seen many kids get done playing a sport after college and not even enjoy the sport anymore. I think burnout can be avoided by having fun.”
Wendy Sachen: “Absolutely real and it makes me sad. I am old and still play volleyball and some other rec sports as much as I can and I run across athletes fresh out of college that don’t even want to see the field or court because they are ‘done.’ Burnout is one or any combination of repetitive injuries, poor coaching, crazy parents, crappy teammates, deflating academic standing, anything that kills your love for the game and it’s just not fun anymore. So to avoid it, have fun. Be sure to work hard, but have fun. Be respectful to your coaches, but have fun. Stay mindful to be serious and focused because you need to be challenged by your coaches. If it’s too easy you’re not getting better, however getting better is fun.
Sachse: “I think multiple sports prevents burnout. It gives them a fresh start every season and typically a new group of kids to develop relationships with and a new coach to learn from. The burnout happens when a kid just does one sport year around.”
If you could give any advice to younger kids who are thinking of playing multiple sports, what would you tell them?
Huckabee: “If kids are going to play more than two sports they certainly need to make sure that they are doing it for them and not their parents. My oldest started her high school career playing three sports. After finishing her freshman year she decided on her own to stop playing two of the sports and added one she had never done before. We stood beside her in her decision to stop playing two sports she had played since she was little. We only gave our input and let her decide what she wanted to do. It all depends on the kid and how they feel about the sport or sports in general.”
Holden: “I would tell parents to vary their kid’s extra-curricular activities and have an open mind if they want to try something new or something that is foreign to you as parents. It can be hard because as parents our social lives tend to revolve around our kids’ activities. It is hard when they want to give something up and you as parents are not ready for them to give it up.”
Sean Sachen: “My advice, play as many sports as you can while you are young, narrow it down to your favorite two or three once high school starts. Work hard in everything that you do and have fun in the process.”
Wendy Sachen: “Before diving in head first make sure that you are on top of your academics and time management. You are a student athlete and studies should come first. Ask yourself, will I be able to handle school, practices and competition without overwhelming myself? Go out and find the coaches that support your decisions and ultimate goals. It’s tough to play for someone that thinks you should only participate in what they are coaching and won’t compromise in the best interest of you, the student athlete. Make sure you communicate with all coaches well in advance of any possible schedule conflicts and determine how those situations will be handled. If you are a high school athlete this communication needs to come from you directly to your coach, so encourage your parents to let you do the talking. You can still copy them on the conversation to keep them in the loop while practicing adulting.”
Sachse: “My advice to all kids is to go out for every sport you can and enjoy your junior high and high school teams and coaches and players. Don’t spend all your time thinking about the next level. High school sports are one of the few times in your life that fans come to watch you play. Many times at the small college level there are no fans at the games. All three of my kids play or played multiple sports and they will all tell you that it is and was a great experience.”