We did it: our 8yo son is about to start playing for a soccer team that requires a 10-month commitment. It’s exactly 180–degrees opposite of what we believe, exactly what MPower is supposed to stand against, and now we are on the fast-track to the Dark Side. Two practices per week plus games on the weekends, beginning before school starts in August until after school ends next June.
Why?? There are a lot of reasons, but the primary one: right now there is no alternative. Despite the well-documented benefits of kids’ participating in multiple sports, and all the research-backed downfalls of early sports specialization, a multi-sport path is one that each family is left to fight for on their own. By contrast, the specialization path is EASY, well-worn, and options are around every corner. MPower’s purpose is to create this new path that is EASY for multi-sport families to follow. But as an organization with a plan and working model, we are just not there yet.
Meanwhile, our 8yo enjoys playing so many sports and is far more competitive on (and off!) the field than his brothers. But there is no sport he loves more than soccer. As parents, we have taken care with sports to keep our kids focused on—perhaps to a fault—fun, trying new things, and good health/fitness. But this 8yo boy—far more than either of our other kids—is hardwired to compete and be the undisputed best at everything he does… including soccer. So our current soccer options?…
TOWN REC LEAGUE: Not competitive enough for this kid. He gets angry that he is not challenged, that other kids don’t try as hard as he does, and that many of those kids would rather be picking flowers or pulling each others pants down than playing soccer (…which I happen to think is what normal 8yo boys do!). And BTW: our oldest, very athletic 9yo will continue playing soccer at this Town Rec level in the Fall, by his choice and ours. He enjoys it, and would like to keep enjoying it (preferably with his pants on)… along with the other sports he plays in the other seasons.
TOWN TRAVEL TEAM: Soccer is a religion in our town (of which we are mere casual “churchgoers” I suppose), and the Travel soccer teams are VERY good and VERY competitive. Selection is by tryout, and coaching is by dedicated local parents. Fall and Spring commitment are explicitly required to the exclusion of other sports in those 2 seasons! Oh, and Winter indoor soccer is “highly recommended” too.
PREMIER LEVEL TRAVEL TEAM: This is where we have begrudgingly ended up with our 8yo. Also by tryout only. Formerly Fall, Winter, OR Spring (woohoo!!), but during tryouts we were informed of their change to requiring a 10-month commitment. Ugh. But here our son gets the competitive, skills-development environment that he so badly wants. And the coaches are experienced, paid professionals, and they are impressively “professional” in both label and in practice from what we have seen so far. Perhaps best of all, they show zero tolerance for unruly parents, and those parents who attempt to add their own “coaching” from the sidelines. The only negatives so far are 1) the 10-month commitment, and 2) the financial cost… and that’s it. Good soccer for a competitive kid. Good environment. **sigh** …EASY.
…But really? 10-months of soccer-soccer-soccer for an 8yo kid? This is an 8yo kid who also excels at hockey, baseball, and lacrosse, and who had wanted to try basketball this year (his suggestion, not ours). All the bad reasons to forego those sports and play 10-months of soccer instead are well-documented, and the body of research is ongoing and growing (John O’Sullivan does a great job of summarizing in his blog). But the single-sport specialization path is too EASY, and right now there is no organized alternative.
THIS is why we started MPower. We will be the alternative, for our kids and yours. But we’re not there yet. We’re working on it, and in the meantime I can only keep my fingers crossed that our 8yo keeps on loving sports and doesn’t get hurt. Like us, follow us, contact us.
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