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THE CURSE OF THE TRAVELING CLASS

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by Judy Antell

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      When your kids are small, you enroll them in 'movement' classes, hoping it will lead to a lifetime of sports or dance.  Read any parenting book, and you will encounter the benefits of said classes — which promoting physical activity, combating childhood obesity, instilling a passion.  Be careful what you wish for.

                                                                      

   My two older girls play travel soccer, which comes with a grueling schedule that demands a year-round commitment, twice weekly practices, and one or two games a weekend.  They are both superb athletes with not an ounce of body fat.  But my youngest is now clamoring for a travel tryout as well.

   Actually, she has been asking ever since some of her teammates on her recreational soccer team joined the more competitive teams.  We have put her off, using the excuse that she was "too young".  This placated her for a while, but she has cleverly figured out that she is now the age that her sisters were when they started playing 'travel'.

   But we simply don't have the time to cram yet another travel schedule into our overburdened agendas.  You don't just sign up a kid and she gets to play.  You have to take her to practice, and pick her up, or coordinate car pools.  You have to go to games.

   And then there's the tryout.  It isn't fun when your kid tries out and is rejected; Sela, our middle daughter, tried out for a team with a friend, and that friendship was strained when Sela made the team and the friend didn't.  Nora, our youngest, could try out and not make it.  Since she is not the strongest player, this is a good possibility, but a coach who knows our older girls might take her, figuring she'll develop into a better player.

   Nora, who is more into theater than soccer anyway, auditioned for a theater group and made it to the final round.  When she didn't get in, she was devastated, crying for days (what an actress!).  It's hard to see your child fail at something, though I've heard arguments that it will strengthen their character.

   There is a balancing act where you want to encourage your child to take risks, and try out new activities, but you also want them to be successful.  And each activities leader feels his is the most important, so kids run out of time to try different pursuits.  When Hallie, our oldest, was on a gymnastics team, her musical theater instructor made her choose between gym and theater.

   In 'rec' sports, you can be the worst player and still get equal time on the field.  In 'travel', there are starters and subs.  The subs tend to drop out because they have to make the same time commitment yet they rarely get to play.  I understand this from a coach's perspective —it's all about winning, and you want to field your best team. But I also see the parents' point of view. Why should they spend the time and money if their kid never plays?

   I have one fantasy where Nora tries out for 'travel', makes the team, then decides not to play because she has an acting role.  But that's not fair to the kid who doesn't make the team and really wants to. 

   So we'll keep trying to distract her from this travel team madness.  Tennis anyone?


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