Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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What you aren't told at sports registration, or Travels with Hockey-playing Charley

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The blog Travel With Teens recently had a few thoughts about a common form of, of course, travel with teens: youth sports. The blog, written by one Mary T, went through the history of how the first sports sign-up turned into a lifetime of Ramada Inns, as if the kid was a guitar player for the Gin Blossoms.

As I headed out the door at 6:15 am for one of the eight youth ice hockey games I expect to attend during this school winter vacation week, I reflected on how the seemingly innocent choice to sign the kids up for “learn-to-skate” at age 5 has shaped our family’s travel choices for the last 10 years.   Over the years, as I have watched friends jet off to the tropics for school vacation week while we packed for yet another holiday hockey tournament in Lake Placid, Rochester NY, Cape Cod, Connecticut, Ottawa or wherever, I have wondered about the road we have chosen.  I will say up front, I wouldn’t change a thing because the confidence, friendships, tenacity and character our kids have garnered from their sports activities, and the family friends we have made, have been worth the trips postponed.  Yet, for those whose kids are still young, here are 5 thoughts to consider as you approach your first youth sports registration table:

And what would those five things be? What dastardly secrets are the kindly volunteers at the OfficeMax-purchased banquet table keeping from you?

  • (1) If your child sticks with a sport for more than a year or two they may likely end up on a travel team.  …
  • (2)  Tournaments are rarely in locations you would choose for a family vacation at that time of year.  Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard are great places, but the hockey tournaments are there in November not July.  The upside is that you will almost always get a break on hotel rates!
  • (3) The more passionate your kid becomes about the sport, the more likely they are to participate in vacation week and summer camps.  Day camps when they are 9, 10 or 11 become sleep away camps as they turn 12, 13 or older.
  • (4) If they play sports in high school, remember that fall sports such as football and field hockey start up several weeks before school, eroding opportunities for late summer family travel
  • (5) The chances of getting a division 1 “free ride” to college in almost any sport is very low so don’t expect that 12 years of deferred travel will be repaid with a scholarship

First, I’m glad Mary T has a good perspective on this. At least she’s enjoying the ride, rather than wondering why she’s pissing away all of her hard-earned money for nothing. Second, I asked my 10-year-old daughter, a three-time All-Star in her house league, whether she was interested in travel softball. She said no. And I am eternally grateful.

That reminds me of the sixth thing they don’t tell you at youth sports registration: that even if your kid shows a little talent, turning over your weekends, holidays and bankbook to a sport is not required — the kid might not be interested, and the parent might not be able.

Written by rkcookjr

January 5, 2010 at 11:39 pm