Adult Leaders Wanted. Will Train.

overscheduled-childThe average Navy SEALS field exercise may require less planning than the Sunday evening meeting that takes place between parents in many houses.

Mom: “Okay, Julie has dance on Monday and Thursday at 6:00. I can handle both ways on Monday and Thursday pick-up but you’ll need to drop her off because my 5:00 pm meeting will run late. And can you do the PTA meet and greet on Wednesday at 4:30 pm?”

Dad: “Roger that. I’m on it. Now, Jordan has soccer practice right after school on Tuesday and Thursday. We’re good there because he’s going to ride with the Griffels both ways. But he has an away game on Wednesday at 7:00 and we’re drivers for that. I can’t get him there because I have a church board meeting after the PTA. And when do his art classes start?”

And the swimming lessons, and the youth theater rehearsals, and the lacrosse, and the Science Olympiad, and the, and the, and the…

Over-scheduling is epidemic. We want to expose our kids to everything possible. Whatever our kid’s pearl is, we are opening every darn oyster. It’s creating stressed-out kids, snappish parents and a real problem for youth sports.

Coaches and referees and administrators are in critically short supply. I’ve seen the pleading emails and fliers at rinks and fields around town.

“WE NEED COACHES!”                     “REFEREES NEEDED!! Will TRAIN!”

I’m ready to go on eBay and auction myself off as a youth soccer coach.

Over-scheduled kids equals over-worked parents. Involvement in youth sports, as an adult, is a serious time commitment. Pre-season coaching and referee clinics. Meetings. Practices. Game days. Time outside of practice spent maintaining team websites. Communications with parents.  Practice planning. The hours add up. By my experience, to be a committed coach of a U-12 team or older, expect to spend 1-2 hours working on sport-related ‘stuff’ for every hour of scheduled practice and game time. That’s a significant amount of time for anyone.

I grew up a ski racer. In the US, in order to race in US Ski Association races, parental involvement was mandatory. Parents had to volunteer for a certain number of tasks and hours over the course of the winter, or the child was not allowed to race. This was in the 1970s- a much easier time. Two income families were not yet the norm. Many of my ‘scheduled’ activities involved my mother shoving me out the door with the instructions “Don’t come home until the streetlights come on.”

We will not be going back to that paradigm. But we do need to create a new paradigm. When my son was younger, we implemented the “one activity” rule. Aaron could choose any one after school activity plus one weekend activity. He did ceramics. He did quiz bowl. He tried guitar. He played soccer, a lot. He played tennis, a lot. Aaron stayed active. He was exposed to a variety of activities. He had fun. He got good, really good, at tennis. His parents maintained their sanity.

But too many parents with whom I speak describe themselves as little more than limo driving caterers who are valets to their children.

It is clear. A new model for involvement in youth sport is needed. What should that model look like?

Help Me Out:

1)     If you are a coach/ref/ump, how do you keep everything in balance?

2)     If your kid plays youth sports, and you’ve never taken an ownership role, why not?

3)     What’s your “Best Possible Option” to attract more parents to youth sports in leadership roles?


I’ll collate the most thoughtful, useful answers into my next post. Thanks for playing!

Featured Image Courtesy of


The Beginning
About David Stanley

Teacher & science guy, writer, musician, coach, skier and bike racer, I am interested… in everything; your story, food & spirits and music and everything in the natural world, spirit & sport. My son is 22 and still needs his Dad. I am 56 and so do I.
I blog on life and death, cancer and sports, kids and education at

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