Teen Talk: Playing high school sports -- a labor of love, or just labor?

08/28/2012 12:00 AM

08/27/2012 4:51 PM

DEAR KELLY: Last year, I participated in a very draining club sport. It wasn't just physically draining, it also was very stressful and took up a lot of my time, so much so that I had no room for other things I wanted to do, like hang out with friends or pursue other interests.

It wasn't completely horrible, though. I made many great new friends on the team and had a lot of fun.

This year, though, I will be on the varsity team and practices will take over my life even more, since they are about three hours a day, six days a week.

It's going to require a lot of dedication, and I'm not sure I can give that commitment.

I am already committed to another activity I love and will never put above this sport, and there are many other things I want to do, like get a job.

Also, I doubt a compromise on the amount of practice would be possible.

Practice is vital in this sport. I would quit, except for one reason.

The only problem with not signing up this year is that practically everyone I know (my best friend, my sister, many of my school friends) will be continuing with the sport this season, and they all love it.

I'd be so isolated if I quit and I'm afraid they'll be disappointed in me.

Last year this sport was my life, and I'm not sure if I was happy with that life and if I want to create a new one.

– Conflicted

DEAR CONFLICTED: You bring up a very common issue many high school students face. It can be a hard decision and one that creates stress. Ultimately, you have to decide if the payoff for playing the sport is worth the time and energy it takes.

If you gather a room of adults and ask them about their fondest memories of high school, a large percentage will talk about being a part of a team. Whether they were cheerleaders or played a sport, many people feel some of their best times were being on a team.

Words like "camaraderie," "family" and "teamwork" often describe the many feelings that can be associated with playing sports.

You also bring up other words that create the conflict as to whether to play: "draining," "practice" and "dedication." Sports can take a big bite out of your time.

And you are correct that as in most sports, practice is vital to success. The commitment level is high, but so also can be the rewards.

Getting a job is an admirable goal. But you have the rest of your life to get a job and only a short time left to play high school sports.

Sure, you will be able to play recreational sports as an adult, but few things compare to representing your school on a team. If you really want money, why not find a job you can work into your schedule such as baby-sitting, tutoring or mowing your neighbors' lawns? Those kinds of jobs have flexible schedules and can allow you to manage things without feeling so overwhelmed.

My job allows me to talk with many high schoolers or kids who recently graduated. Quitting a sport seems to rank high with regard to regrets after high school.

Yet rarely do I hear young adults regret playing the sport – whether they were on a winning team or not. The positive memories, self-discipline and ability to work with others seem to outweigh all the hard work and time commitments involved. Playing sports shouldn't be viewed as chore or job, but rather a gift and an opportunity to do something you can be proud of the rest of your life.

If you decide to play, make sure you are doing it for the right reason.

Giving up so much of your time means you have to want to play, not feel forced to play. Play because you want to spend time with some of your favorite people who make you happy. Play because you have fun and get to meet new people. Chose to play because you are doing something good for yourself physically.

Stop being concerned you will disappoint other people if you decide not to play. If you walk away from playing, be OK with yourself and pursue the other activities with the same commitment and dedication you would have given if you had played. It needs to be your decision either way, and you need to stand by what you feel is the best thing for you.


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