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Is it worth it? .... thoughts about youth sports.

On my way from dropping my daughter early to swim practice, so I could be on time to pick up my son from basketball practice, so I could get dinner done before picking said daughter up from swim practice, I started to wonder if it was all worth it. I thought about how many evenings were spent racing around from one practice to the next (forget about family dinners!). I thought about the vacations and weekends away we haven’t taken because there was a tournament or a swim meet. I thought about the costs, which add up- even though neither of our kids play a sport with expensive equipment, and they’re not on travel teams. I wondered, “is it worth it?”

Then I thought about my experience with sport.

I thought about the lifelong friends I’ve made from the various teams I’ve played on- from U10 rec-league to club sports to the Olympic team. No matter where we came from, we had that sense of belonging.

I thought about how busy my life was as a junior athlete, yet how organized I became and how I learned to manage my time efficiently.

I thought about how it felt to work hard at something and notice my improvement, and how that helps me now, when I’m learning new skills.

I thought about all the times I faced down a challenge and achieved something, and how that continues to inspire me to push myself beyond what I initially think I’m capable of.

I thought about learning to work with others on my team (even those I wouldn’t normally get along with) toward a goal bigger than myself. I learned to value each person’s unique contribution.

I thought about when I was dropped from a team and realized that if I wanted things to change, it was entirely up to me. I was the one who could determine my future. It may have looked a little different from what I had originally expected, but I was in the driver’s seat.

I thought about losing a match in a tournament, then having to bounce back to play my best in the next one.

I thought about how I now deal with setbacks by reflecting on what didn’t work and figuring out a solution, just like I learned to do as an athlete.

I thought about how I learned to set goals and to plan actionable steps to make those visions become reality.

I thought about how I learned to value the process and to take care of small details, because I didn’t want to walk away never really knowing what was possible.

I thought about that feeling of exhaustion and satisfaction I get when I’ve really worked hard and given everything. I still love how that feels and I’m sure that started when I was playing sports.

I thought about the joy I felt doing something that I loved. I still love to play and always look forward to pickup games with my friends. Exercising doesn’t feel like a burden to me.

I thought about the butterflies I feel when I’m about to do a presentation, and that I know how to help them fly in formation- to strengthen instead of weaken me. I learned that from sports- in big pressure moments, in big games and in big stadiums.

I thought about how I respond to things beyond my control. When I was playing, I couldn’t control the ref’s whistle, but I learned not to let it affect my emotional state.

I thought about being encouraged and trusted to make decisions, especially in pressure situations.

I thought about the people I competed alongside and against, and how they helped me get more out of myself than I ever would have been able to alone.

I thought about all those times practice was hard and all the times I felt like quitting, and how much sweeter it was when I pushed through.

I thought of the pride I felt when I accomplished something, knowing I was the one who had put the work in.

I thought about that time in my life and about the person I have become. So much of who I am is a direct result of being part of those teams. I want that for my kids. I want them to become confident and resilient and to be life-long athletes. I know that they will have their own unique experiences in sport. Whether the outcomes are positive or negative will depend on how I support them and what kind of coaching they encounter. That’s something I can control.

Sitting in that car between practices, I thought about whether the missed dinners, all the running around and the lost weekends are worth it. For me, the answer is “yes”.