To play or not to play organized sports, has been a dilemma in our family over the past year. It is a constant dialog between my husband and I, and an internal struggle of mine. Part of me is thrilled beyond belief that my eight-year-old daughter has found a sport that she is so passionate about. The other part of me is screaming, no--she is too young to be playing a sport this intense!
My daughter plays hockey. That's right hockey. She has been doing it since she was six years old and has been on ice skates since she was five. I still remember her first experience on ice. She was only in kindergarten! We brought her to a local ice arena. She refused to use the walkers. She started very slowly. One step at a time: getting a feel for the ice under her new skates. She's a quick learner and by the end of the hour, she was gliding.
The second time she was on the ice, was for an ice-skating lesson. She was already gliding around, recalling the skill from her last experience. Other mothers were asking how many years she had been skating for. They were surprised this was only her second time on ice. Within minutes of her lesson, she was chasing the instructors around, going full speed ahead. The instructors asked me if I ever considered letting her play hockey. And the seed was planted.
I remember thinking, how cool! Our daughter could be a hockey player. It definitely fit her go-get-them, feisty personality and she had plenty of energy to spare. Not thinking about the logistics of signing her up, we tried a free clinic the following year to see if she liked the sport. Needless to say, she was a natural.
My daughter at the wee age of 6 years old
She started off with just twice-a-week practices and an occasional game. We were homeschooling at the time, so it was perfect. She had plenty of time to play during the day, didn't have to worry about homework, and a few nights a week she got to skate her heart out.
Well the next year, the girls went to a private school. Homework became a very real reality, along with more practices and games. My daughter's skills improved and she was still having fun. However, over time the practices and games took up most of the week. She now has hockey four/five days out of the seven! It is now towards the end of the season, and for the first time in her life she has been complaining about going to hockey. We had to take matters into our own hands, and prioritize which games and practices she can go to--because honestly, it is too much!
Some of the parents we are friends with have two or three kids in hockey, sometimes on different teams! I don't know how they do it! Basically, they are driving to four different games on the weekends and practice almost every night. Hockey lasts about 6 months out of the year. It is an incredibly long season. Don't get me wrong, we enjoy watching our daughter play hockey and like the sport, the time commitment is just against everything I believe in.
I sometimes dream up ideas like, wouldn't it be great if she could just simply play pond hockey with her friends a few times a week on her own schedule? Until, I remember most kids are just as busy as my daughter, playing their own organized sports or plugging away at the pile of homework they have for that night. She would most likely be out there by herself, which defeats the purpose of the game.
The only reason why we continue to step forward with this sport - is that our daughter simply loves hockey. She has become a force to be reckoned with. She plays center for her team and effortlessly skates down the ice, speeding past her opponents to secure the puck. Hockey has become a part of her identity--something that comes easy to her and she takes joy in. To take hockey away from her at this point would likely break her heart. And so goes the dilemma... I heard next year's worse. Three practices a week and up to three games a weekend! I dream of the days when it was just a few days a week--not all encompassing.
A few weekends ago, I was working at a mandatory hockey fundraiser. Another obligation of this sport. A mother working with me at the concession stand confesses to me that her twin six-year-old daughters aren't signed up for an organized sport yet. She feels guilty and wants my opinion. I turn to face her, eager to get my message across. "Don't do it," I say in desperation. I'm sure she was probably thinking I lost my mind. "There are plenty of years ahead. Let them enjoy their childhood. Just let them play and be kids." A weight seemed to lift off her shoulders as I said this--one less thing this mother had to worry about.
To Play or Not to Play? That is the question.