Q: My 12-year-old son wants to play two sports this spring. How can I tell if he can handle it? My husband wants him to play baseball, while my son wants to play lacrosse and soccer.
A: As the spring seasons of baseball, soccer and lacrosse begin, now is a good time for thoughtful conversations before signing up for various teams. The older a child gets, the more demanding life becomes, and practices and games are only one part of this.
I’m all for playing and experiencing multiple sports. From a purely athletic, mental and social perspective, different sports complement each other and provide a variety of learning experiences. Participating in more than one sport per season is a huge commitment and tweens don’t always recognize this. For elementary school-age children, ages 5 to 10 or 11, sometimes managing two sports per season is doable, especially when teams do not travel for games.
For middle-schoolers at the tween age, sports teams typically travel. This means more practices, more competition and more involvement. There are often tournaments at the end of the season, as well.
Parent should consider these factors when contemplating more than one sport per season.
Sports are great, and yet they should not interfere with family time and academic time. Revered family time during a heavy sports season becomes even rarer than usual, so plan time for at least two weekly family dinners and one special meal with a family activity on the weekend.
Regarding academics, tweens should plan for up to 11/2 hours per night of homework. When sports compromise academics, problems arise, so avoid that.
When playing two sports, multiple transitions are inevitable as people shuffle from one field to the next. Changing clothes in the car and rushing between games and practices are commonplace and interfere with necessary transition time that helps kids to relax and refocus.