The University of Minnesota conducted research on Youth Sports. The report is called Parents perceptions of how frequently youth sports interferes with family time.
They conclude that "done right" youth sports can provide a positive and meaningful context for youth development and family engagement. They also express concern that the amped up youth sports world of today can place the health and well being of the children at risk. Overuse injuries, parental pressure to succeed and compromised family leisure time are the main issues.
I agree with the overuse injuries and pressure being potential issues. But I disagree with the argument that the amped up youth sports world of today hinders optimal development because meals, family outings and simple discussions between families and children are sacrificed.
On the contrary, I think that youth sports has brought my family closer together. Due to our crazy schedule - last month we had 18 practices and 30 games between two kids - my wife and I spent countless hours in the car with our kids. Do you know what we do in the car? We talk. We have also spent countless hours at restaurants after games. Do you know what we do while waiting for our meals and eating? We talk. Travel tournaments draw us even closer together. Just last year, we visited Cooperstown and Disney. We are seeing the world and bonding.
The following charts are from the report which I encourage you to visit via the link above.
As I look at the data, I can report that youth sports does interfere with Sunday religious service. I talked about this in my post called I Used to Wear Soccer Shin Pads to Church. My kids go to Catholic schools so they are creating a strong religious foundation. The kids go to a service every Thursday during school. My wife and I, however, miss church more than we would like.
Late practices often pushes homework later in the evening, so I would agree that sleep is sometimes compromised.
School is number one in our house and my kids do well, but I must admit that sometimes homework is compromised. My older son has ADHD and school did not come as easily. We restricted him to one sport per season.
Youth sports does interfere with vacations in one aspect - for example we would love to visit family out west in the summer, however, travel baseball and AAU basketball tournaments take up all of my vacation time so we have not been able to see extended family as much as we would like. On the other hand, youth sports travel tournaments also inspire vacations for us. This year we will go to Disney and to Gulf Port Mississippi.
Youth sports does not interfere with Family time, in fact I think that we spend more time together than the average family because of sports. When we have the rare an off weekend from sports, I do not see my kids. They are off to sleepovers or hang in the basement playing video games.
Youth sports do interfere with the traditional family meal at home, but we do eat out together a lot after games. I think that the point about family meals is the time spent together talking and we do that frequently at restaurants.
The chart indicates which sports interfere the most. Funny this chart does not have a bar that represents my daughters schedule - she is playing school volleyball, AAU basketball and Elite soccer all at the same time.
The Main Point
So you can look at youth sports as a negative and in some families it can be, but the overbearing parent with unrealistic expectations is most likely the problem and not the schedule. I look at youth sports as a huge enriching positive for my kids and our family.