It’s difficult to walk the line between student and athlete.
I think no one would argue that school is THE most important activity for any kid. Or it should be. They all need to learn to read, write, do math, understand history and science…all those good things.
But as a non-athlete, it never occurred to me that my children would all gravitate toward sports. And it REALLY never occurred to me that they would become extremely serious about their sports. The theme of sports as a learning opportunity comes up again and again as I watch my children grow, and I am often sorry that as a child, I felt that intellectual activities and sports were mutually exclusive.
There are only so many hours in the day, and a kid who is playing sports isn’t doing something else. That can be an automatic good thing–such as when the kid is playing baseball instead of video games. However, it can also be a more subtle good thing–such as when the kid actually has a ton of homework but is forced to juggle, coordinate, and plan ahead in order to get the homework done and still get to practice.
Many times, we want to keep our kids home in order to finish that science project, read that book, or get more sleep. Or we worry that they are tired, sick, or overwhelmed. It’s tempting to give them some breathing space by clearing away some of their less-important obligations.
But as a reformed non-athlete parent, I have to say that I’ve morphed into “one of those parents” who lets her teenagers pop an ibuprofen in order to get that 99.5 degree fever down enough to survive early morning swim practice. Skip practice? Not unless you’re throwing up.
I think most adults with responsible jobs do the same thing, too. Unless you’re a readily replaceable cog in a machine, you worry that skipping work means falling behind, shoving things off onto your co-workers, or a job badly done.
Sports is a great opportunity for the kids to practice doing what they’ll need to do out in the workforce. Sick? Try ibuprofen. Tired? Try a power nap. Burned out? Try a walk out in nature or a meditation session. Don’t immediately resort to skipping practice or bailing on your teammates. Sometimes things that look like hobbies are actually school in disguise.