Dear Grandparenting: My two grandchildren (Robby is 10 and Pammy is 12) are really into sports. I played football, baseball, basketball, tennis and lacrosse at different times during my childhood, and I like the idea that the grandkids are keeping up that tradition.
I was always under the impression they played sports for their school or neighborhood Little League teams. That’s the way it’s always been, and I never gave the matter much more thought.
Turns out I was way off. My grandkids have taken things to a whole different level. Both joined private “club teams” that play all year around against top-notch competition. Pammy decided to focus on volleyball while Robby picked baseball.
All this costs extra, of course, and then there are travel expenses for meals and bus trips and some fancy equipment. No one in our family has any money to burn. When I asked my son where all this was going, he said something to the effect his kids were only following their dreams.
My first reaction is that my grandkids have put all their eggs in one basket. Will they burn out doing the same thing week after week? Will they consider themselves failures if they don’t become stars? Sounds like a good way to put less fun and more pressure into their life. Agree or disagree? Trevor Harris, Houston, Texas
Dear Trevor: Welcome to the strange new world of pay-to-play youth sports sweeping America, fueled by families betting that such hyper-intense, hyper-competitive regimens can put youngsters on the fast track to athletic success, perhaps a college scholarship.
While ever-greater numbers of grandchildren are less active and more overweight than previous generations, a booming youth-sports market has emerged that offers unprecedented levels of coaching, training and competition: private club teams, regional squads, development academies, national tournaments, autograph requests, etc. National baseball rankings begin for teams comprising four-year-olds.
Although some grandchildren thrive under this system, we think it represents a turn toward sports as an obsession instead of a healthy complement to schoolwork. Not long ago, grandchildren were riveted to spirited contests between middle and high school squads of boys and girls that bonded communities.
Something is surely lost as the luster shifts to privately funded club teams with their emphasis on winners and losers. It’s all too slick and semi-professional, a sad commentary on our times as youth sports trends toward becoming a pay-to-play proposition.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Belinda Estrada, of The Villages, Florida, was outside gazing up at the night sky with granddaughter Serena, 5.
Serena asked her grandmother how many stars were overhead. “Trying to count the stars is like trying to explain how much I love my grandchildren,” replied Belinda. “I can try, but it is just impossible.”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.
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