Sometimes it feels like I have spent the better part of the past decade watching youth sports. Between soccer and t-ball and basketball and gymnastics and water polo and flag football and baseball and a short stint with swimming, I figure I must be clocking in at about eleventy thousand hours right about now. It’s…a lot.
Before you become a parent, no one tells you how many hours you’ll spend watching your kids play sports. Or watching dance recitals. Or listening to piano lessons and band practice. But let me tell you, it’s a lot.
There are memes galore about the frustrations of youth sports. The time spent driving to and from practices. The money spent on all the gear. The over-zealous parents. The weekends spent freezing or sweltering (depending on the time of year) while watching your little one kick the ball a few times between picking dandelions in the back field. (Just my kids?)
Even as I sit in my folding chair watching my kids play their sport du jour, I can feel myself missing these days.
What people also don’t tell you is that nestled up against all these complaints parents make about the time, money, and annoyances of youth sports is the utter delight that comes with watching your kids play. Even now as I add what feels like hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to the running tally that is youth sports, as I sit in my folding chair watching my kids play their sport du jour, I can feel myself missing these days.
Sometimes our family’s life feels consumed by our kids’ sports. Before making plans, we check the calendar to see if there’s a baseball tournament. I bring my laptop to baseball games. And we often scarf down dinner at 4:30 or 8:30 on our way to or from a practice or game.
And you know what? I wouldn’t trade these chaotic days for anything. Because despite—or maybe because of—the inconveniences of youth sports, there is something beautiful about them. Even though I sometimes daydream of weekends when my husband and I sleep in and get a lazy brunch because there’s nothing on the calendar, I already know that I will look back on these days with a fondness.
After all these hours I’ve spent watching my kids play sports, I’ve realized something that no one tells you before you have kids: there is something magical about watching your kids do something they love.
I will relish the friendships made with other parents as we root for the same team. I will appreciate the values that sports have instilled in my kids—things like teamwork, resilience and courage. I will be grateful for the painful but necessary lessons they taught as well, like how to deal with disappointment and how to acknowledge your weaknesses so you can lean into your strengths.
But mostly I will miss watching them play and be kids. I will miss watching them figure out how to throw a curve ball. I will miss watching their face light up when they make a basket they didn’t expect to make. I will miss watching them look up at their coach’s face, eagerly soaking in their advice. I will miss the way they would excitedly talk about the drills they did at practice and how they are learning a new play. And I will miss watching them laugh on the sidelines with their friends.
Let’s be honest, most of our kids are not going to be professional athletes. Most of them won’t be collegiate athletes and many of them won’t play in high school. But that doesn’t diminish the value of youth sports. After all these hours I’ve spent watching my kids play sports, I’ve realized something that no one tells you before you have kids: there is something magical about watching your kids do something they love.
Sure, it’s time-consuming and expensive and those early-morning weekend games are downright painful, but if you look closely, you’ll see the magic too. Sometimes you have to look really closely but it’s there.
These days, when I sit in my folding chair watching what must be the four hundredth baseball game, I am looking a little closer. I am watching my sons a bit more intently, not just when they are on the field but when they are on the sidelines and in the dugouts. I am reminding myself that I will miss all this one day. I’m savoring the magic.