Don’t be afraid of youth sports. It may look like an overwhelming, sometimes hyped-up, tiger-y, nutso, unapproachable world, but Greenwich Moms in conjunction with our friend, Amanda Wurtz, a local Mom of four and self-professed sports lover, has got your back!
Let’s start with this very common, but not so simple parental question. Sports for our kids: What do we do? Where do we go? Where do we start? Who do we ask? Is everyone this confused? The “who, what, when, why” questions one would think would be easy to access with easy to find answers are sadly… not so easy to find.
Here’s our story, thus far. And I’m sharing this and will continue to share more youth sports information, so that as a community we can help others along what should only be a joyful, kid focused, love of the game road.
My husband and I finally made the decision to leave urban life in the fall of 2019. This was a pre-pandemic move I’ll have you know…. and in the context of youth sports, and probably some other stories, that seems to make a difference these days.
We had come to realize one of our four kids, to put it simply, was really into sports. The schedules and commitment were becoming harder and harder for us to manage in the city, and his interest was only growing. To be clear, it wasn’t entirely about our kids and their love of sports and their active natures that prompted us to move, but it was certainly a big factor. While we realistically didn’t think a prepubescent ten-year-old was shaping up to play in the pros anytime soon, we weren’t afraid to admit to ourselves that we wanted to ‘feed the beast,’ so to speak. The kid was, and is, a golden retriever. All he wants to do is play sports, all day, all the time, anywhere he can, and the city was starting to stifle him. And us.
I remember that period where we were discussing our move very clearly. Over a series of months, we chatted (bickered) pros and cons, confirmed it was time (I eventually won a very long fight because my husband just gave up), found the right town (proximity to the city because we both mistakenly imagined we would have time and be cool enough to frequent NYC all. the. time) and we ultimately pulled the trigger. Just like that. And like anyone making a giant life change, it was totally easy and smooth! No one ever fought, and everything was perfect, and every decision we made about our family was seamless! But of course, it was!
The decision had several layers, but neither of us will deny that the land of green soccer fields, regulation size goals parked on lawns and lacrosse bounce-backs (that’s the technical name) in every front yard, was a real draw. A huge factor we couldn’t ignore.
As a family arriving here with no clear understanding of how it all worked, we started to ask about teams, options, organizations, tryouts, schedules, and oh no… a new form of panic set in. In many instances we were too late or missed a tryout or didn’t sign up in time or didn’t understand what we were supposed to sign up or tryout for. We found so much of the process relating to youth sports, not only completely confusing, but also utterly exhausting. There seemed to be an endless menu of daunting decisions and tryouts and rosters and travel teams and town teams and options galore. And I’m just talking about youth lacrosse in this particular rant. I hadn’t even started figuring out what sports my daughters might play, let alone where and how, and there are three of them. At some point I settled on underwater basket weaving. Anyone know what season they play in and when the tryouts are?
It wasn’t just that there are so many sports and so many options to play those sports, at any level. Sadly, we also didn’t realize that the nuanced information isn’t always readily available. Even sadder still, when it is available, but confusing, clarity and the truth isn’t always shared among parents.
Once we settled into understanding how much we didn’t know, we got very lucky. We had the luxury of wonderful, helpful, friendly, open-book new neighbors, and we owe a ton to their kindness and guidance. We got amazing advice, not only about where to get food and toilet paper, the essentials at the time we landed here, but also, we got great advice and the truth about youth sports. One woman in particular, a brilliant former division one women’s lacrosse star, who shall remain nameless as she’s shy… gave us as much insight as she could unpack. She broke it all down for us, so we could at least understand ‘town’ versus ‘club.’ We soon understood there are different approaches in every sport: from good old fashioned competitive teams and exercise, versus intense and often inappropriate crazy coaching, and (no one’s innocent in this), some crazy parents. We found the give-your-kids-some-gentle-encouragement and confidence building support juxtaposed to benching toddlers because the goal is the win! At all costs! There are so many different flavors it’s still a little confusing. Not to get into a longer discussion about the sad and silly professionalization of youth sports in our country, and parents being overly competitive and sometimes delusional (sigh… yes it happens), that’s for a later rant.
Overall, we were given rare, but highly appreciated insight and what I call an equal-parental-playing-field, that most certainly should be paid forward to everyone else. That’s the goal here. There’s enough stress for us parents and for our children. Let’s get back to the basics of why youth sports can be so great for everyone involved. If not, maybe we’ll have to resort to the recent advice a friend offered: “don’t do it…” and “maybe just gently guide your kids towards dioramas at home for as long as you can. This youth sports thing will kill you. Slowly and then suddenly!” (Unnamed, very smart but exhausted friend).
The point is this: information is not readily available, and it doesn’t have to be that way. Youth sports, from high-level competitive teams, down to life on the D-Team, should be shared and available. In a world where things are often so out of control, we want to share what we learned and what we know. We want to take some of the confusion and all of the panic away.
In a nutshell, besides our family’s own perspective and that of Greenwich Moms, there are tons of wonderful families, student athletes, coaches and sports-related professionals who want to share their experiences and advice with you. There are folks out there who have been through this system, from happy go lucky youth sports initiatives to the super intense we-are-already-training-our-kid-for-the-Olympics types. There are many willing to share their stories, advice, and ultimately break it down, so you can repeat or don’t have to repeat their mistakes. You may even be so lucky as to mirror so many great choices experienced families in our community have made.
I know I needed someone to walk me though it and thankfully found that one great mom and neighbors who took us under their wings. Wouldn’t a clearer view of all the wonders that youth sports have to offer, without so much of the heartache and stress, be a nice item to check off your 2023 list? And beyond?
Stay tuned for more and let us know if there’s anything super specific you want us to help guide you through.
And get ready for Spring and Summer sports, as they’re right around the corner! No stress though! We got you covered!
Good luck and play ball!