Balanced commitment to extracurricular activities

April 2, 2010 8:44:20 AM PDT
As this school year starts, my two oldest sons are playing football. My youngest is taking part in Little League "Fall Ball." That's in addition to their music lessons (guitar for 17-year-old Jason, piano and saxophone for 13-year-old Billy, and piano for 8-year-old Micah). Plus, they have religious-school obligations as well. In the winter, it's basketball. In spring, it's Little League. In the past, they've tried soccer, karate, and swimming. Each of these different activities requires two major commitments.

The first is a commitment by us, as their parents, to get them to all these activities, practices, games, recitals, etc. And to make sure that while they're involved, they're enjoying themselves and not getting over-loaded by the demands on their time.

The second is the financial commitment to buy the required equipment, whether it be cleats, bats, pads, helmets, balls, instruments, sheet music, whatever.

As for the first, we have a rule. Since the boys' music and religious-school commitments last all year and they, of course, have homework throughout the year, we limit their sports involvement to one sport per season. I know parents who allow their children to play in multiple leagues, on several travel teams or several different sports at the same time. Obviously, this is a choice up to each individual family. But I have found that if my husband and I (who both work full-time) are to remain sane, one sport per kid, per season, is our limit. At first, I was concerned that my sons might "lose their edge" and not be competitive with other boys who play multiple sports all the time. But my oldest is a successful starting Varsity football player in high-school, so I think he's turned out OK. Plus, all three boys are able to keep up their grades and practice their instruments. Statistically, most kids will NOT grow up to be professional athletes. Mine probably won't. But at least they can have fun playing sports and pursue a variety of other interests as well, all while keeping their grades up.

Again, the "one-sport per season" rule may not be for everyone. But so far, it's working for us.

Now, onto the second major commitment that comes with these activities - the financial commitment. On the Saving With 6abc Page, we have profiled a number of sites and stores that can help you save money. Check out our story on Axe-Zactly Music, for deeply discounted instruments. Or our Play It Again Sports for discounted sports gear. Especially if your child is sampling a new activity, you may find these sites will help you save a good deal of money. And if your child decides the activity isn't for him or her, you may be able to re-sell what you've bought and re-coup some of your investment.