Boys: Demented & Dangerous,  Deep Thoughts,  Frolic and Detour: Sports

Hey! You Do Too Much!

A couple of years ago there was a boy on one of my sons’ teams, and he was playing every sport offered that season. Often on Saturdays he’d go straight from the soccer game to his baseball game, and that still left lacrosse to do. He was a reasonably good athlete but his last name wasn’t Manning or Agassi so I couldn’t understand the pressure to practice and play three sports while trying to learn to add and subtract.

Then again, maybe I’m lazy. If each of my boys got to play unlimited sports, my fanny would never leave the minivan except to sit on hard metal bleachers or wash uniforms.

The Voice of Reason says the excess of activity is not limited to boys. The girls have softball, soccer, cheerleading, and she’s been fielding calls nightly from parents wanting her oldest to join yet another team. She’s refused.

Generally I limit the boys to one sport and one instrument per season.  This winter, however,  we banned winter sports entirely and it’s been the most enjoyable basketball season I never sat through. We didn’t have to attend games late on Friday nights or early on Saturday mornings. We were free to go to Auburn on weekends without coaches telling us where to be and what to do. We were constrained only by the guitar and drum schedules, which have been in place for years now and aren’t affected at the last minute by the weather.

How much is too much? Do people overschedule their children where you live? Are you guilty of doing so? If so, why, and what will it take to stop the madness? Or wait– are we in the minority for doing only a sport and an instrument?


Three years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: You Vamp! 


  • Jaynee

    I definitely think people over-schedule their kids in the hopes of building a great high school transcript. It’s crazy. All it’s doing is burning out the kids.

    Mine are still young (preschool). We enrolled them in a once-a-week gymnastics class. When our daughter expressed interest in dance, we told her she had to wait for gymnastics to be over and then she could possibly take dance. And she was fine with that. I do hope to get them involved in piano lessons (possibly in 2009) and may even teach them myself (after all, I’ve been playing since I was 6 years old).

    Jaynee’s last blog post..Book: And The Shofar Blew

  • Jeni

    Yeah, I just did show jumping in high school (well, and a season of basketball, but I try to forget it), and my mom still had more than enough schlepping to do. Her happiest day was when I got my driver’s license so I could haul myself out to the barn on show days at 3:30 a.m. or so.

    I think I’ll let Hosea play, um, nothing. Okay, maybe chess.

    Jeni’s last blog post..Makin’ Mischief- 5 Month Redux

  • Sister Honey Bunch

    I have a friend who has 4 children. The two oldest are involved in anything and everything. The two youngest are not old enough for organized sports but they do kindermusic and whatnot.

    Anyway, this weekend they drove 4 hours for their daughter to compete in a Free Throw Contest. 4 hours. Free throws. Not even a tournament or something. And they spent the night down there. Drove back up the next day. In-freaking-sane.

    My kid is only 5. Right now he has no organized activities, but will have soccer in the spring and wants to play baseball in the summer. I think that’s appropriate.

    Sister Honey Bunch’s last blog post..Parenting an Only Child

  • Charlie on PA Tpk

    In my corner of PA, we have two boys, 12 and 5. Presently, the older boy is involved in Boy Scouts and Martial Arts (taekwondo). Those two events keep him (well, he and I) out 3 nights each week. Then there’s at least one weekend camping trip each month (not required to go, but often do).

    In the fall, the younger one will be itching to join Cub Scouts (he wants to join already), so that will likely mean my TKD training will come to an end… can’t juggle that many nights out!

    Charlie on PA Tpk’s last blog post..Thank goodness for the Internet

  • jen

    I flat-out laid down the law that there is one activity plus Cub Scouts. I saw way too many over-scheduled kids when I taught flute lessons. There aren’t enough hours in the day and weekends are family time. So far, so good. We’ll see how it goes as the second boy starts up with activities.

    jen’s last blog post..Why yes, he is blonde

  • Jessica

    I have 2 boys involved in some activities. Basketball is ending but practice has started for baseball. My kids are not big athletes but some parents had their child in wrestling and basketball. Boy Scouts seems so overwhelming to a child in 7th grade with homework, baritone practice, and a sport. I don’t know what the statistics are but are Eagle Scouts only children with parents who did most of the work? I didn’t even sign my youngest for cub scouts this year. I will next year but I feel that my oldest will probably want to drop Boy Scouts which will be fine with me.

  • Bhamdining

    Absolutely. Experts say kids need time to engage in creative play without organized sports or TV or video games. And parents need time not running around to every event too. We’re limiting our 5-year-old to two activities. Right now it’s soccer and gymnastics and I’m wondering if that’s too much!

    Bhamdining’s last blog post..Happy Valentine’s Day

  • heidi

    With 4 boys we have a 1 sport per season per child rule. Spring & summer are hellish but fall and winter are much better. As for additional activities, 2 play instruments (in school lessons & one does jazz band), 2 are in scouts. That’s about it. And still… it will be insane here in another month or 2. They do have friends that play several sports at a time. I can not IMAGINE why any parent would do that to themselves. I suppose I’m just lazy. That and my kids do not handle overscheduling well at all. They love their down time.

    heidi’s last blog post..We’re All Going To DIE!!!!!

  • Jen

    I’m at home with my young kids, and I find that the number of activities for which they’re signed up directly relates to how desperate I am to get OUT! Right now it’s soccer & skating (each once a week). Spanish class starts again, soon. Other than that, we go to our family gym and swim together or go skating during public skate at our local rink- together. My kids are now 4&6, so they’re in school part time. But when they were just home all the time, I think going to gymnastics, music class, Spanish, dance, and swim lessons were what kept ME sane. It wasn’t really for them; although gymnastics did my daughter a world of good in terms of both coordination & confidence. I do think we’ll back down to 1 activity per season when any given sport is more than once a week.

    This really isn’t a one size fits all kind of issue! My SIL’s family doesn’t get along too well when hanging out at home for any extended period. They’re ALL happier when they’re super busy. That’s what makes their family happy. Hats off to them for finding what works for them, even if it makes me tired just listening to their schedule!

  • Joy East of theKingdom

    THANK YOU!! Now I don’t feel like the only mom on the planet that said “ENOUGH!”

    We were burning the candle at both ends and in the middle too. I finally told my son “pick ONE sport and excell at it.” He chose football.

    East of the Kingdom, we have the ever raging “battle of the balls”…football vs. baseball. Baseball is definately king in our area. So much so that we don’t have enough boys to play park league football because baseball runs year round.

    Luckily we have moved on to school football, where there are actually seasons again.

    My best friend recently jumped on the wagon. A single mother of 4, 3 playing softball, came to the end of her rope last season when all 3 girls were scheduled to play on the same night, in 3 different towns! Talk about dilema!

    So we’ve limited ourselves to Football…at least until Ty is old enough to drive himself!

    Oh wait…

    One Spring sport does take precident in our household…being “buddies” at Moody’s Miracle League! If you ever want to bring yourself back to playing for the love of the game, volunteer one Saturday (or just come cheer…we always need fans!) at a Miracle League game.

    Read more about us at


  • Cassie

    We do one sport, period. Boo does Karate year round, with tournaments starting this month going thru November.

    Jenna does Dance, which is thru the school year.

    Boo wants to add track to his activities, long distance in fact, which is fine, if it fits into the schedule.

    We’ll see.

  • Katrina

    I think an important part of childhood is all the long afternoons of nothing–daydreaming, reading, using their imaginations to create their own activities and projects. Overscheduled kids often don’t get the chance to discover their own inner resources, to strike out in their own direction. Organized activities are all very well, but in my opinion, one or maybe two are more than enough.

    Katrina’s last blog post..How YOU Doin??

  • Charro

    I raised two boys and they played one sport each season plus scouts. Answering Jessica’s question about the statistics in scouts..I just know that our boys did their own work and one made EAGLE SCOUT. I could not believe when he applied to colleges and then for jobs how being an EAGLE SCOUT opened so many doors for him. It is a big deal , so hope all of your guys stick with it

  • Headless Mom

    While the kids are young I want them to try as many different activities as they want-one at a time. I’ve learned with Headless Girl that by the time they ‘specialize’ (or choose their favorite) that will keep them away enough. I’m also a firm believer in the family dinner and we all get a little crazy when we can’t reconnect. So one sport at a time, plus Scouts, seems to be enough for us right now!

    It does drive me crazy to see some of HB1’s friends so over programmed that they can’t keep up with their studies-and they’re only in 2nd grade. It seems as though those families are headed for bad times when as teens they were never taught the importance of grades and they get kicked off the team for bad grades and they don’t get why…

    Headless Mom’s last blog post..Just Curious…..Cold Medications

  • Laura

    We apparently roll in much the same way- one sport at a time. Molly does dance, Harry does soccer/ basketball/ t-ball. Summers are blissfully empty.

    My sister has one kid who is freakishly gifted at all sports. They arrange the whole year around him- but his younger sib gets very little of the same. His sport seems to be “sitting in the bleachers,” but he doesn’t seem to mind as long as the popcorn keeps coming and he can play with other other sports orphans.

    Laura’s last blog post..The Laundry Paradox

  • libby

    I’m a lucky mom in that my son isn’t interested in sports at all, so I didn’t have to put my foot down on the number of sports. We had decided to keep it to one before he was old enough to walk.

    He does take piano lessons (imposed on him) and will be starting drum set lessons (requested by him). And next school year he will be starting Confirmation classes at church on Wed nights.

    He is the most creative kid and I just don’t think he’d be as creative if he hadn’t had so much time to come up with things to do.


  • K

    I think you can over do anything, but I think its worse on the kids whose parents give them unlimited TV and video games as opposed to those who have them in athletic competitions. My kids both played high school and summer travel ball and yes, we travelled miles and miles for sports competitions. But those times alone in the car with my teenage kids were priceless. Its amazing what they’ll open up and tell you when they have no one but you to talk to and they don’t have to make eye contact to do it.

  • Jo-L

    I am fascinated by the number of travel teams for various and sundry aports, generally starting at about 2nd or 3rd grade requiring at least one if not all members of a family to “travel” to different areas of the state/region to play in tournaments … all requiring hotels and lots of gasoline in addition to TIME away from what I call normal activities, not to mention SCHOOLWORK. When I was in school , all we had was a girls basketball team (I am 5’4″) and cheerleading (several of ours went away for a season to have babies). I do think it is nuts when they get older, and the reason is not to get out of the house …

  • Shayna

    My mother was a firm believer that you could only do sports OR music. Not both. I don’t think parents always realize how hard they’re pushing their kids (like the three sport a season kid) because they assume that children have the need and capacity to handle multiple projects at once–like adults. I wonder how that poor kid even keeps up with school, much less friends (who aren’t on the same teams). Oh, and obviously I only did sports or music–cello with lessons for seven years, piano off and on for ten. 🙂

  • CourtneyRyan369

    I have to say that my brother and I were those “over scheduled” kids. School or camp and 2 sports each, and dinner with Dad at least once a week…then came jr. high and highschool where we added work and the highschool show to the mix.

    That all said? We had to coordinate our own schedules. If we wanted to add something, we had to make sure it fit in the schedule and that we could get either mom and dad to take us (or a friends parent)…when I wanted to take sign language class, I took the ones that coordinated with my brothers hockey schedule that session or went with another lady who was taking them…when my brother wanted to play summer puck, he had to make sure that one of us could get him there – usually me after work. It was a family commitment. I guarantee that my mom and dad agree with K. They wouldn’t trade the travel or schlepping for anything.

    Our parents didn’t do it to pad our transcripts, in fact it prob. brought us from A to B or so students, but we met some great people, saw some awesome things and are always up for anything…

    I wouldn’t trade the scheduling and commitment for anything. I loved that part of my childhood.

    And one thing it did teach us was just how precious time is and how much we should cherish it every moment and every memory.

  • Jenny

    My kids are not involved in much. They attend church on Wednesday evenings, and my daughter is going to play soccer on Saturday mornings this spring. So far, that is it. My oldest son isn’t really into sports, and my two little guys aren’t at that age yet. I really value time at home and letting kids have time to just be kids and play. I want my kids to value family time. So many families are constantly on the go, racing from one activity to the next. It’s just not for me.

    Jenny’s last blog post..If I Were a Shoe…

  • Candy

    I think the overscheduling is rampant, and everywhere. Here in NJ, it’s the norm.

    I put my foot down when they were in grade school. One club, and one sport per season. None of these traveling teams that require driving to where Christ lost his sandals to compete.

    My kids turned out fine. I think parents who overschedule are filling some need in themselves, not their kids.

    Candy’s last blog post..Post-Op

  • Russ

    My boy is not yet two, so I’m not there yet. I think the important thing is school. There is more need for accountants, doctors, and engineers than there is for various and sundry athletes. Also, it is much easier to get into a school on academic scollies than athletic scollies (they are more apt to give you an athletic one if you can spell you name too).

    Russ’s last blog post..The Cycle Continues, by Jasper

  • Mir

    So far, we measure it in hours. No more than 3-4 hours a week of extras. Right now, that’s children’s theater (1 hour) and tball (2 hours). We always let her choose, and we do change with each season so she gets to experience a little of everything before sports get “serious” and she has to put in real practice time instead of just play time.

    We also have a no TV rule on school nights, and this seems to give our kid the childhood she should be having in elementary school — school, friends, homework, chores, play time and sports! Happy, healthy, hopefully limited therapy when she hits adulthood.

  • Tina

    Over scheduling is definately a problem. My seven year old takes Tea Kwon Do and goes to Brownies – both one a week. Every other weeken she has a one hour riding lesson. She loves all of these so we do not feel like we are pushing her to do too much but I would not allow her to add anyhting at this point without dropping something else.

    Tina’s last blog post..My Favorite Things

  • Betsy Bird

    Twelve hours shy of finishing my term as middle school talent show chairman tonight, I’m here to tell you that overscheduled young children too often turn into over-indulged adolescents who’ve never been taught that life involves choices. Packing every minute of a second grader’s after-school schedule sends the message that life is about what you can do, not who you are. It also teaches children that the adult world will bend over backwards to accommodate their every whim, which any adult knows couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many of the parents who believe in enriching every waking minute seem to be treating their kids like crops — they’re trying for the maximum yield per acres. As the mother of an almost-college student, I know all too well that we live in a grotesquely competitive world today. But if a child ends up with a perfect GPA and a sports scholarship, but doesn’t know how to treat others or herself with respect, how successful is she ultimately going to be?

    Betsy Bird’s last blog post..Hell Hath No Fury Like a Stage Mama Scorned

  • Tara

    We have younger children, but our rule has always been one thing at a time. My oldest started basketball this winter and she reminded me she had to stop gymnastics since she could only do one (it’s a month to month class). I have them trained now.

    I have been accused of being lazy, but I don’t think that’s why I only allow one. I think they will burn out by the time they are in high school and that is when I want them involved. That’s how I stayed out of trouble.

    But kids also need to have down time to just be kids without too much structure. Play time should be fun at this young age…not a list of rules. I would much prefer my kids playing games where they get to make the rules (they are only 3 and 6).

    Tara’s last blog post..A Heart for Giving

  • Amy

    I played basketball in middle school and high school and my father never made it to a single game or ever saw me play. I could have stayed home to be with him and not be involved in extra activities, but who wants to be ignored and gag from second hand smoke?

    I vowed that when I was a mom, I would know my child and be involved in what was important to them. I think this “Over Scheduling” may be just one of the results of Generation X growing up.

  • Karyn

    People are insane.

    We have a backyard, a swingset, a slide, more basket/kick/socker/base balls than we know what to do with, and we live 1/2 mile from the beach. We do not own any video games and there is a 1 hour per week limit on computer games which first must be Mom Approved.

    The 6 year old may want to play baseball this year and that’s fine if he does. It’s also fine if he doesn’t. As they get older, I want them each to pick SOMETHING – drama, debate, cooking classes, athletics, chess club, ANYTHING just to get them into the world a bit and spread their social wings.

    But IMHO, people are over the top about scheduling their kids. Give them some empty boxes, some crayons, some paper, a yard and some sticks and rocks and let them get dirty. The best things come from that, I find.

    Karyn’s last blog post..19th Nervous Breakdown