The Role of Youth Sports in Raising Children


I can’t say enough about what being active in youth sports is doing for our son.

Still a freshly minted 6-year-old, our oldest recently faced his biggest athletic workload yet with soccer and hockey starting at the same time. Being new to the scene, my wife and I had concerns over whether or not he could handle playing two sports at once. Just last year we made a big decision to send him to kindergarten despite just making the cut-off age and thus the youngest kid in his class (My Kindergarten Son: An Academic Red Shirt), this year we had to decide if we should challenge him further by doubling down on sports.

As with any decision we make, my wife and I always want to do what we believe is best for him while also keeping in mind what he wants to do. We didn’t say, “You’re playing two sports because we’re those crazy parents and sick of all this free time we have on the weekends to chill out and would rather rush you around from field to rink and back again.”

No, that’s not how it went at all.

He wanted to play both soccer and hockey and after much discussion and analysis, we were willing to let him try. We talked with other parents who have been through it,  we read articles, asked questions of trusted sports dad Kevin Duy of, and mostly we thought about how it was when we were kids. From there we made plans for monitoring him: School and homework couldn’t be compromised, daily reading and sleeping patterns not affected, and on weekends, mandatory down time between sports when they were on the same day.

With soccer now over and hockey the only sport in focus, I look back over the experience and the following are what I consider the 3 most important things I saw. Things that I believe will carry over from sports into all other aspects of his life.

1 – Confidence:  He scored his first legit goal in a hockey scrimmage this past weekend and seems to actually understand it’s all of the hard work put in during practice that led to it. Hockey is definitely a struggle for him, unlike soccer, but he loves playing and each week it gets easier to show him how practice is helping. Each week he gets more confident in his actions — from just keeping up, to his first scrimmage goal. On top of that, his circle of friends is growing as we now see the same kids at school, hockey, soccer, church, town holiday events, etc… Practice is leading to results in games and thus growing his confidence in his abilities; the involvement growing his confidence socially.

2 – Stamina:  My wife and I were worried about him handling two sports in one season and nothing could be further from the truth. We have watched his stamina increase by nearly double on the field/ice and now have to actively manage his desire to play in the yard/driveway at all times in between. In short, playing two sports has given him more energy, not less. He is eating more protein and vegetables at dinner without a fight and he is lights out without a problem when it’s time to go to bed.

3 – Social:  Now more than ever it’s important that kids can adapt socially. The social scene is not even close to easy these days, so acclimating them early before they really know what’s going on can only help. Essentially they need to be able to figure things out in a group setting ASAP. In talking about this subject with my wife she said, “They need as many opportunities as they can to follow directions and listen.” She’s a teacher and that’s correct. In both soccer and hockey he has coaches he must listen to as well as pushy kids he must deal with. Arms and elbows fly when these kids chase down a soccer ball and lines are cut when the coaches “aren’t looking” during hockey drills. These things are repeatedly corrected and they honestly do eventually get it. But in order to “get it” they have to face these situations, learn how to deal with their “pushy” peers, and most importantly learn to listen to their coaches — together. It’s much like what they are learning in the group setting of a classroom, but here with addition of physical intensity and competitive spirits.

Today what I see standing before me is a more confident boy with increased stamina and tons of friends.

Youth sports plays no small role in that.



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  1. I loved reading this and hearing about how sports have been so beneficial to your son. As our son’s currently six months old, we haven’t started him on sports yet but we might take him to his first ever football (soccer) match on Saturday. I hope he’ll get as much out of sports as your son has.

    • Brad the Dad says:

      Thanks for reading, Jonathan. Taking them to games surely starts the process before they are on the go themselves. The son I talk about in this article is actually scared of the buzzers at hockey rinks. Taking him to hockey games as a spectator has helped him build a tolerance to the buzzer noise and we are almost over this hurdle. So yeah, early and often in all aspects of sports is the way to go. Good luck and stay in touch.

  2. Happiest Daddy says:

    Congrats! What an accomplishment for your son and you and your wife. As you mentioned, the confidence that he gains from these experiences is priceless and will pay off in myriad ways. Your son is the Bo Jackson/Deion Sanders of 6-year-olds!

    • Brad the Dad says:

      Thanks, Happiest. It’s really fun to experience. My new phrase is – he’s my favorite athlete on the planet to watch. I actually miss soccer now that it’s over. Maybe I should find another sport to enroll him in this winter? Lol.

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