Is it worth it? My thoughts on youth sports.
Photo by Ben Hershey / Unsplash

Is it worth it? My thoughts on youth sports.

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!).


Written by Sarah Straton

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”.