Is My Son Missing Out Because He Doesn’t Play Sports?

image source: heather neal
image source: heather neal

I’d just gotten off the phone with the local Y. “Umm, mam? Registration for that closed four months ago.”

I’d missed the boat again. My son will be three-and-a-half in a little over a month, and I’ve already missed out on signing him up to play soccer the first year he’s old enough. Apparently if you want to get in, you have to start the registration process in January. JANUARY. There’s a waiting list for even the 3-year-olds, and the poor gentleman on the phone was nice enough to stifle his laughter as I thought I had even the slimmest chance of getting my son signed up for the sport this late in the game.

He mostly politely told me that if I wasn’t a member and didn’t call within the hour of non-member registration opening up, I was SOL. Not to mention I was four months behind the season. I thanked him for cluing this obviously first-time-mom in, and I’ve almost forgiven him for referring to me as “mam.” I’ll assume it’s because I sound so wise for my age and we’re in the South, after all.

You’d think I’d learned my lesson, but the same thing happened for swim lessons. I thought it’d be smart to get my preschooler pool-ready before the season officially came around. We had a close call with a swimming incident last summer and I wanted to minimize our chances for a repeat event before sending my kid off to play near the water again.

I wisely decided late spring would be the perfect time for him to start swim lessons (his first official “lessons” of any kind), but came to find out swim lessons for the preschool age group are wildly in demand and yet again, I’d missed the window for registration. I’d even put a reminder in my phone calendar for the day registration started, but twice I missed our chance to formally teach him how to swim before summer rolled around.

Maybe I’ve just been oblivious, but I had no idea that sports and lessons were so popular for kids at such a young age. What happened to just letting kids be kids? Or is that part of letting a kid be a kid – enrolling them in all sorts of activities?

I started asking my friends what their kids did, hoping I wasn’t the only one who was behind on the times. But no, it was almost exclusively just us. Kids of the same age and even younger had checked off all sorts of boxes already: swimming, soccer, basketball, t-ball, music, gymnastics, and so on. Heck, even yoga! Weeknights filled with practices and weekends full of games.

I feel like I’ve been living under a rock and have been unknowingly depriving my child of some sort of early childhood experiences and opportunities for development and fun. OK, I say unknowingly, but that’s not entirely true. I did know that these sorts of things existed, I just didn’t realize I was practically the only one not taking advantage of them and diving in with both feet.

I’m torn between thinking I’ve let my kid down in some way by not getting him involved with different things that I can’t provide on my own, and thinking that I would be depriving him of something completely different by throwing him into something he’s not ready for or doesn’t need yet.

I have to be honest, I’ve been looking forward to having games to attend Saturday mornings and something a little more structured to fill our week besides school and free-time, yet I know there’s a fine line between structured and over-scheduled. While cheering on the sidelines might be fun, it also means every weekend on the calendar has something on it. There’s also something nice about not having to do anything or be anywhere at a specific time.

The cost of these sports doesn’t help matters. The first time I looked up the price of a gymnastics class, I about had a heart attack. I immediately called my husband and told him we were both in the wrong business. The same goes for swim lessons and music. While the various traditional team sports didn’t leave me with the same sticker shock, I could still see the dollar signs rolling up before my eyes.

I can barely imagine spending that kind of money season after season, especially when I can’t guarantee my son won’t spend that time glued to my side instead of participating. Or maybe that’s just it. Perhaps if I’d had the forethought to get him involved in different activities at an earlier age, we’d have fewer attachment issues. I know sports and other activities can build confidence, self-esteem, and many other valuable skills and lessons, but at what age that happens I don’t know.

My son loves the idea of playing sports and will always give me an enthusiastic (although varying) answer when I give him a list of sports he could play. I don’t know what would have happened and what our experience would have been if I’d had my head in the game earlier, but I guess I won’t ever truly really know.

I do know, however, that I have a list of registration dates saved in my phone and this time around, if he doesn’t play, it will because he doesn’t want to or doesn’t like it, not because mom was clueless. The only way to find out if something is good for your kid is to give it a chance.

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