Thursday, November 10, 2011

Children and sports in North Texas

North Texas is a hotbed of sports for young children.  They have so many options available to them, and the competition is fierce, and so is the controversy.

We started our son in soccer at the tender age of 4 years old.  Our son attended a day care at the hospital where I am employed, so he was not going to be familiar with any of his future kindergarten classmates, and this was a great opportunity for him to become familiar with them.  We also became good friends with some of the other parents, and established ongoing friendships that we otherwise would not have had.  We also enrolled our son in other sports – basketball and baseball.  We did not want to lock him down to one sport in particular so that he may become well rounded.  He found out on his own that he has an affinity towards soccer and baseball, but still holds a love for basketball.

A couple of years ago, the chatter started regarding “recruiting” for certain teams around the North Dallas area for soccer.  So without actually trying out for teams, my son practiced with different coaches, attended different camps, and then ultimately we were told that they would pass on our son joining their team.  While I told myself I would not get caught up in the competition of it all, there was the mother bear that comes out thinking “why not my kid??”  During this whole process, we kept telling our son that he could quit anytime.  We would never force him to do anything he didn’t want to do.

After some time, my son received an invite to practice with an FC Dallas Youth soccer coach.  My son was very anxious to do so; not because of the premise of “trying out,” but because my son has an anxiety of meeting new people and entering situations of where he doesn’t know anyone.  I’m sure this is an only child thing.  It took some convincing just to get him out of the car and onto the field.  He had a great practice, and low and behold, the coach emails us that very evening inviting our son to join their program.  Fast forward to current day and he is on a pre-Select team, molding into a fine soccer player.

Do I think he will become a professional soccer player?  No.  Does he still play other sports?  Yes.  Why do we do this as parents?  Because it’s good for him. My son is the type of child that needs structure.  He needs a schedule and needs his day planned out for him in advance.  Yes, I am a type A personality, so he gets this from me.  Is he overscheduled?  Perhaps.  Does he still do well in school?  Absolutely, and that will always come first.

At my own soccer game, there was a discussion regarding sports at an early age and how young was too young.  One of my teammates suggested 8 was too young.  In North Texas, if a child is entering sports at age 8, it is too late.  This is sad but true.  Do I agree with it?  No.  I also don’t agree with the overzealous coaches and parents on the sidelines that scream and yell at the referees, nevertheless the children on the field.

I ask my child on a monthly basis, “Are you still good with playing soccer?” The day he tells me no, is the day we pull him out.  For now, I enjoy my life of chaos, grass in my car and trunk, and a happy child with a few smudges of dirt on his face.

Janet Fragle works in customer engagement for innovative technology solutions at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano.

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