My Sports Kid.

I don’t remember what year Owen got his first baseball glove; it was Father’s Day, though, because we took Jeff to Dick’s Sporting Goods after going out to breakfast… and Owen left with a new baseball glove. I vividly remember how much he loved it, though. He loved baseball immediately.

Not so much with soccer. Our foray into it in pre-K was a disaster, where he refused to go out on the field and instead kicked a ball with Jeff on the sidelines for two games before we decided it wasn’t worth it to bring him out in the rain just to play with us. But then, when he was in kindergarten, he came home one day and said, Mom, soccer is starting tomorrow and my friends are playing. Can I play too?

Since then he’s played in the fall and with his two best friends in a pretty competitive indoor league over the winter.

Earlier this month, we heard about tryouts for a local club soccer team. Both his best friends were trying out. So we asked him if he wanted to try out as well. He did. That first night after tryouts, he came home, all excited about all the things they taught him. Also, he made the team.

This summer, too, he’s playing baseball on a summer team with other kids from town his age, which is fairly competitive as well. They travel to other local towns nearby and play ball in different towns. He comes home all jazzed up, asks Jeff to play baseball with him, practices his pitching. All the time.

He just loves playing sports.

For my part? I love it, too. I vividly remember starting on a softball team in 3rd grade and being bored out of my mind, but then having a great coach in 4th grade and loving it. I remember how great it was to play softball all the time, and how much I loved it. To this day the smell of honeysuckle, which grew on the town field’s fences – brings me back to my softball games. I was a competitive kid, always arranging for races in the streets, or football, or roller skating, or whatever we happened to be doing at the time. Given that I still do races, I’m obviously still pretty competitive.

Also, I love meeting the parents of other kids. For a couple hours (baseball) or an hour (soccer), I get to watch my kid AND get to know parents of other kids.  I love being able to see the different personalities on the field, get to know the kids that Owen talks about. There’s so much about his life at school that I don’t get to see; it’s so nice to be able to spend time on a baseball or soccer field watching and cheering for the kids.

But there’s a part of me that’s ambivalent as well. The schedule, for one. When soccer starts up in the fall, he’ll have practice twice a week and games on Sundays. Baseball this month is one practice on Saturday and two weekday games – and they go until 8:30 or 9. Obviously it’s summer, which lends itself to later bedtimes, but I worry about being overscheduled in the fall when there’s more homework (3rd grade is a big year in our school district).

(And that’s not counting the whole crap, I’m going to need to restructure my work AND our family dinner schedules to make sure he can make all these practices.)

I also worry, a lot, about all this, well, structure, too. Am I really providing him with the tools for a happy life if I’m carting him from one planned activity to the next? If I don’t give him enough unstructured time now, will he KNOW what to do with himself when he gets to a point in his life (ahem, college!) when every minute of every day isn’t planned out? Don’t kids NEED to have a unstructured time for creativity and their own interests?

But then… he loves it. And I heard a quote, a long time ago, about child-based learning which has stuck with me. You, as a parent, should encourage the activities which light your child up. Baseball and soccer light him up.

And that’s enough for me.

(Right now, anyway.)

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