When to Push and Pull; Kids in Sport


Even before having kids, people would always ask me, “What if your kids don’t want to play sports or hockey?”

I would always say jokingly (but completely serious): “Too bad, they will play and they will like it.”

The values, character, lessons and friends gained from playing sports as a child, teenager and even young adult have been invaluable to me, and I hope my children have the opportunity to be a part of something that special as well.

I’ve always been prepared to advocate and push my kids to be active and play sports, but it honestly never occurred to me that I might actually have to make the conscious decision to hold them back.

I’m a big supporter of the idea that kids (especially young kids) need more time to just be kids. There are so many avenues for them to get trapped into too much organization and structure at such a young age, sports aside.

My daughter is a January baby and as such, would have been more than ready to go to preschool for a year or even two prior to starting kindergarten, but we decided it wasn’t the right move for her. She gets plenty of reading, writing and craft time at home, on her terms, why force her to do it all on someone else’s? Daycare is about free play, and she has plenty of social interaction there, so I’m certainly not concerned about that aspect either.

This year, the idea of my daughter playing hockey came up, as some hockey associations will take four-year-olds, and while my husband and I were initially quite enthused about it, we took a minute to really think it through.

Author Kristie Syke’s daughter just not into golf that day.

Author Kristie Syke’s daughter just not into golf that day.

Luckily a little trial with “junior junior” golf lessons in the summer gave us all the answers we needed; they were super informal and on a drop-in basis at Cowichan Golf and Country Club, and they do a FANTASTIC job with the kids. They are short, relatively unstructured, simply set up a ball and hit it and the pro will come around type lessons.

Our daughter loved it the first time we went. She laid on the ground the majority of the second time and opted out of hitting balls to run around on the putting green the third. It was clear that the best option was to just take her to hit balls on our own when she felt like it.

If that fell on a day when they had their lessons on, then great.

She still talks about those “lessons” and how much she loved it and wants to do it again next year, which is hilarious, because she really only went a few times and hardly participated. I think because we didn’t push her to continue, she took away the positives and still loves to go hit balls. Anyway, that experience was eye-opening. She wasn’t ready for hockey. She expressed interest, much like golf, but wasn’t dying to do it.

I also believe in honouring a commitment and teaching my kids to do so as well. I wish there were more drop-in programs for them to try things out without being stuck; I would have a really hard time signing them up for something and then letting them skip it if they “weren’t feeling like going,” that day.

We recently (hypocritically) signed all three of our kids up for baseball next spring, and I’m not sure how it will go for the boys as they are still so little (they will still be three).

I’m shocked they even allow that age group to join, but at least ball season is only eight weeks roughly. They only go once a week for a pretty limited time-span, so it’s not the end of the world if they lose interest. Even still, this could backfire, but I just know them, and know that watching their big sis play and not getting to play themselves will be a battle every week, so I’m hoping this was the right choice (fingers crossed).

Now comes the real dilemma. While we opted out of starting hockey this year, we did let our daughter do ballet. She was SOOOO excited to do it and still questions me every week as to when her next class is.

It was an easy choice and is only one class per week for 30 minutes. Ballet will go to June and will overlap with baseball. I also really wanted her to play field hockey (as I also played, and still do), and she has expressed interest in that too, but I just can’t wrap my head around having a 4 year old (she will be five by then, but still…) in three organized sports at the same time. Way. Too. Much.

She’s way too little for that, even for older kids that would be a lot. So even though a little piece of me is dying, one activity is going to have to be on the chopping block; and since her bestie is playing baseball, I know field hockey is out for this year.

Kids have so much time to try different sports and figure out what they love, and as they get older, the need to take a good long break becomes more of a necessity to avoid burning out.

Every kid is also different and finding a healthy balance will vary between families and even between children. You will know the balance is right or isn’t. I personally would really hate to push my kids too hard, or let them do too much (even if they are eager and willing), and have them burn out as teenagers, when they will really NEED sports.

Kristie Sykes