Column: Don’t Take For Granted Wealth Of Sporting Opportunities For Our Kids

Justin Jarrett |

At the risk of showing my age – and sounding like I’m complaining of walking to school in the snow, uphill both ways – let me tell you about my childhood as a sports-crazed boy in rural Kansas.

We had three seasons – football season, basketball or wrestling season (depending on your family), and baseball season. My hometown had no organized soccer league, no competitive swim team, no outlet for kids to play tennis. My high school boasted a few more opportunities, but not many.

So now that I’m a parent, I’m thrilled to live in an area where my children can be exposed to the full gamut of athletic opportunities, even if it makes for an insane extracurricular schedule. I try not to take for granted what a luxury it is to be able to shuttle my almost-7-year-old and just-turned-4-year-old to tennis lessons on Tuesday, golf lessons with First Tee of the Lowcountry on Wednesday, swim lessons two days a week, and gymnastics on Saturday … all between soccer or baseball games, depending on the season.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect my kids to be multi-sport superstars who will be able to choose which sport they want to play in college. My son won’t be the next Dave Winfield or Bo Jackson (Google them, kids), and my daughter won’t be confused with Babe Didrikson Zaharias (definitely Google her for inspiration). They are cursed with my genes, after all.

But I’m a firm believer that exposing kids to numerous sports helps them develop not only as athletes, but also as people. Kids who play multiple sports, rather than focusing on one year-round, are less likely to suffer overuse injuries and less likely to become burned out. They’re also more likely to be exposed to a diverse group of friends and to gain a better understanding of different roles and situations, as well as the differences between individual sports and team sports.

Not every sport is for everyone, of course. My son has fallen in love with swimming and eventually wants to join the swim team, while my daughter is negotiating when she can quit taking lessons. (When she can swim across the pool without aid.) My daughter was born to be a gymnast, but the son was not blessed with basketball skills. (I’m afraid I can be blamed for that.)

By no means will I force them to play any sport they don’t enjoy, but neither will I discourage them from any activity as long as they’re having fun. And I’m grateful for the variety of opportunities available to them here in the Lowcountry.

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