Balancing Sports and Family

sports My husband and I sat down to do our budget for the year the other day. If your budget is a reflection of your priorities, then ours are tithing, children's sports and health care. Since then, I've been pondering the whole idea of being a parent of kids who play sports competitively -- and just how much money and time they take from our family.

With two kids playing competitive sports, we miss a lot. There are weeks that we miss church. There are weeks that we miss birthday parties. There are weeks that we miss each other.

My younger daughter and I are headed out for a hockey weekend in Wichita. We'll split up our family this weekend because my older daughter has a soccer game here. Last night, my older daughter was sad because my other daughter and I are leaving and won't be here when she gets home from school.

We make sacrifices for our girls to play sports. We don't take a lot of big vacations. I work so the girls can play. We order our weekends around games. And we're no different from many of you.

There are days when I wonder if this sports-oriented lifestyle is healthy. There are days when I hate splitting up my family. There are weeks when I'd give a lot for a night at home playing games with my kids.

But there are days when I know that my girls are learning things between the lines of the soccer field and the boards of the hockey rink that I can't teach them at home. There are seasons where I watch my daughters learn perseverance and bask in the joy of using their God-given talents, and I'm convinced that playing sports is a good thing.

But I struggle with the balance. For whatever reason, sports have the tendency to become all-consuming. Gone are the days of your kids playing sports on a team of their friends and practicing once a week. That's been replaced by tryouts, one-on-one coaching, and three-night-a-week practices. And I wonder if that's healthy. I wonder if it's what's best for our kids.

As we try to raise our kids with a focus on God and helping others, we find that sometimes sports get in the way. And I don't know the solution. I wish I could sit here and tell you that we've figured it out, but we haven't. I wish I knew the perfect balance of family time and practice, but I don't. I wish I knew how to make it work so we never miss church or small group, but I don't.

What I do know is this. Every family has to find that balance. Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there is a time for everything. We simply have to divide up the time so that in the midst of raising kids who play sports, we don't lose our families, we don't lose our teachable moments, we don't lose the opportunity to worship together as a family.

Sometimes that means we watch the taped version of our church service on Monday night. Sometimes it means we eat dinner at 8 p.m., so we can all eat it together. Sometimes that means we offer to take our kids to a different team's practice so that they can be a part of their student ministry small group.

Like so many things in life, parenting kids who play sports (or who do any time-consuming activity) is a balancing act. We just have to make sure the scales tip more in favor of God and family than they do in favor of splitting up our families.

What are your best tips for balancing kids' activities and family time?