Tag Archives: sports

Savoring Time


Serving at 17

Over the Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday weekend, I took my 17 year old daughter to Richmond, Virginia for her first major tournament of this year’s club volleyball season.  Thousands of girls from elementary school 12 & unders through college-bound 18 year olds compete every year over 3-day holiday weekends from January through May.  This is nothing new for our family:  some combination of us has accompanied at least one of our daughters to these travel tournaments for the past 7 years.  (Our now 14 year old played club volleyball for 3 years before deciding to focus on swimming.)

But this year is different.

Most girls do not come back to play for their club teams as 18 & unders during their senior year of high school.  Clubs that routinely run 3-6 teams of 15, 16, and 17 year olds often run only 1 or 2 teams of 18s because many girls who are not planning to play for their colleges close out their club careers in 11th grade.  Why?  The biggest reason is that the club season is difficult to balance with senior year commitments and events, and the tournament schedule runs right up to, or even beyond, graduation.

hitting at psu

Flying at 15

My own daughter loves volleyball above any other sport or activity she has ever tried.   But she has also thrived in 3 years of high school drama courses, and she has never been able to go out for one of her school’s shows.  After her high school volleyball season ends next November, she plans to focus on drama (along, of course, with school, college applications & decisions, and being a senior) for the rest of the year without the commitment of 3 volleyball practices per week, local single-day tournaments every 2-3 weeks, and 4-6 multi-day tournaments requiring overnight travel.  So she is 95% sure this is her final year of club and right now she is comfortable with the feeling that it is time to walk away.


Looking young at 14–3 quick years ago.

As I watched her matches in Richmond, I thought about how much her volleyball career has meant to my daughter…and to me.  As a former high school volleyball coach, I was fortunate to be able to coach her teams for her first few years of club.  And now, long after I sent my favorite player on to play for other coaches, I still regularly remind her that I will always be her biggest fan…and critic.  But these days I (usually) wait for her to ask for my feedback or instruction.  We both understand that they aren’t our matches anymore–they are hers.

So I savored this year’s January tournament, and I thought about how we are headed into a season of likely ‘lasts.’  Good times, challenges, and even disappointments have added up to a great ride for both of us since she was 10.  It’s true that I am very much aware that there are far fewer of these days ahead than behind.  But even though it is almost time to turn the page, we’re not quite there yet.

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Filed under Activities & Sports, Appreciation

Kids & Sports: A Playing Time Proposal

Over the past 16+ years, our 3 kids have tried their share of organized sports:  t-ball, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, volleyball, swimming, football, tennis, golf, and karate, and I am probably missing something.  For the most part, these have been great experiences for eveyone involved.  But when there have been disappointments, most have had nothing to do with winning or losing; most have involved playing time.  That’s probably not a big surprise–playing time is often the hottest topic among parents on the sidelines. 

I have seen this from both sides, as a parent and as a coach.  I have enjoyed coaching t-ball, basketball, soccer, and volleyball for my kids’ rec leagues; 10 seasons of varsity high school volleyball; 5 seasons of club volleyball; and even 1 spring of “high school developmental golf.”  (For the record, I am fully qualified to teach bad golf….)

So WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?  Should everyone play the same amount?  Didn’t we all pay the same fees?  Should the better players play more?  Doesn’t the coach want to WIN?! 

As I see it, the deciding factor is simple:  Did each player join the team by simply signing up, or were the players selected through tryouts?

For this discussion, let’s assume that each player comes to practice regularly, behaves well, and gives a reasonable effort.

If everyone landed on the team just by registering, playing time should be 100% equal.  And to clarify, an evaluation to determine WHICH team a player will be on is not the same as a tryout to determine WHETHER the player will make a team at all.  If registration form + check = you’re on the team, then I expect playing time to be evenly distributed.

I’ll admit that I take pride in coaching rec league teams this way….developing a steady rotation to balance playing time.  Personally, I do not believe going undefeated in 6 year old micro soccer or playing all 4 quarters of 7 year old basketball is a defining experience for a child long-term; but I have seen firsthand that kids can be bitterly disappointed when they sit on the sidelines feeling left out, sometimes even walking away from particular sports for good.  And if my kid happens to be one of the best players (which has happened now and then), I understand that (s)he should have the same ratio of playing/bench time as the less-skilled players (which has also described my child at other times). 

But if there is a tryout, parents and players need to understand that the team/league/etc. is competitive by its very nature.  If you have to perform in order to earn a place on the team, doesn’t it make sense that the coaches will judge your performance to determine who plays, and when?

So does this mean a travel team coach can reasonably play some kids 100% while others sit the bench?  In my opinion, NO.  As a parent, I understand playing time will not be equal, but for $500-$2000 per season, I expect my son/daughter to have opportunities to play.  And as a coach, I believe that I have to be able to get EVERY child on the field or court at least 1/3 of the time.  If that is difficult, either I should not have selected him/her at the tryout or I am not doing my job to help that child develop the skils (s)he needs to be successful in the games; either way, (s)he plays.

High school varsity teams are the exception.  There is almost always a competitive tryout process, the cost is usually far less than for a travel team, and at the varsity level winning is a relatively high priority.  For most players, high school varsity will be the highest level they can reasonably achieve, and their senior year may be the last time the play their sport of choice on a team with a coach.  At that point, the days of “no one keeps score and everyone gets a trophy” are over.  But I still believe good coaches look for opportunities to get their weaker players on the court or field, especially when the win is fairly secure.

Not too long ago I wrote about playing time as one of the great attractions of swimming.  But millions of kids–including my own–play a wide range of sports in which playing time is an issue.  If you have thoughts on how to manage playing time in the best interests of kids, I invite you to comment below.

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Filed under Activities & Sports, Uncategorized

Going With The Change-up This Summer

During the last few summers, our family’s schedule has often felt as busy as the school year.  But this year we have prioritized our commitments, streamlined the summer calendar, and found ourselves with actual down-time once in a while.

In the past, theme camps at the local health club, rec center, and community college have allowed our kids to delve into piracy, dinosaurs, odd science, etc.  Sports camps have fed their soccer and volleyball skills; in fact, volleyball has included travel club camps, high school booster camps, skills-specific camps, and even a ‘college showcase’ camp.  A major challenge with the camps is deciding who should go where, and when.  If 3 kids have 3 camps in 3 different places, the logistics are crazy.  But if we spread them out to different weeks, summer travel becomes as hard to schedule as trips during the school year.  The kids had plenty of good experiences over the years, but it was time for a little different schedule.

This year?  Our rising high school junior has assisted for a week at her coach’s booster camp, and she may attend another camp as a player to sharpen up before school tryouts.  For our camps this summer–as Tony Kornheiser might say–‘That’s it.  That’s the list.’ 

But no one is exactly sitting around our house wondering what to do until we head out of town for a vacation.  Here are a few examples:

  • In our 9th year on the team at our local pool, swimming remains an important part of summer life.  It is the favorite activity for our 13 year old–practicing the early shift–and a favorite for her 9 year old brother–practicing at 9:00.  This schedule gives each day a balance of consistent structure to start off followed by freedom from 10:00 on.  (Alas, their older sister retired from swimming this year, but she will grudgingly admit that much of her success in volleyball over the years was made possible by the muscle she added to her once-skinny frame through all of those years in the pool.)
  • School workbooks and assigned reading:  chores or good times?  It’s all a question of attitude.  We’re going for ‘good times’ this summer, and there should be no August rush to get everything done.
  • I am teaching the ex-swimmer how to drive.  That’s certainly……interesting.
  • Driving range.  With 2 kids who want to learn how to play golf, taking turns hitting a few shots in a row turned this into a great hour–at a bargain price.
  • Books for the sake of books.  This afternoon my son and I settled in for some quality reading time.  He went with a book ironically called The Name of This Book is Secret, while I worked through a few chapters of Hemingway.  (Once an English teacher….)  What could be better than an afternoon read in a cool living room on a 95 degree day?
  • We’ve also found time for foosball.  Wii.  Building a robot duck.  (Seriously.)  Extra time at the pool, without laps or stopwatches.  Time with grandparents.  Some pretty wild squirtguns that I wish were around when I was a kid.  Tending a neighbor’s dog.  An occasional episode of the original Star Trek series.  (After a year, we are just over half-way through, so it’s a perfect time to pick up the pace).  The time fills itself–so far with plenty of good things.

Hopefully we will be a little more rested and ready this year when the school year starts off again at the end of August.  But either way, we are enjoying the change-up.


Filed under Activities & Sports, Holidays, Living Well, Places to Go