Sports present schedule-juggling challenge

Don Heinzman
ECM Columnist

There’s a big juggling act going on in our suburban communities as parents try to balance their kids’ sports participation with other important family activities.

This is particularly the case with parents who have youngsters who play tournaments on weekends. Often parents are forced to choose between either having their kids play ball all-day Sunday or taking them to church and participating in other family activities.

Usually, parents choose the tournament play, fearing their youngsters will be penalized for not showing up. Church officials say that until parents boycott Sunday games, nothing will happen.

One coach has a simple answer: If you want your kids to go to church, don’t have them join the team. Coaches are confident that, given the choice of choosing sports or Sunday activities, parents will choose sports.

Those who schedule money-making weekend tournaments contend ball fields are available on weekends. Parents who don’t work on weekends can go to the fields with their kids.

There are some answers. One coach says he will not schedule a game on Sunday morning, at least leaving the afternoon for ball playing. Tournaments could be scheduled Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The Minnesota State High School League, which regulates high school sports, does not schedule tournaments on Sunday.

Privately, some parents will tell you they wish Sundays were free for quality time with all members of the family, particularly the ones who don’t play sports.

Parents should check with the coaches to see if, in fact, their youngsters would be penalized for not showing up Sunday, as they decide whether to sign up their youngsters.

If enough parents of the skilled players rose up and asked for leniency from the Sunday scheduling, coaches would change the scheduling.

An issue related to sports scheduling has come up in Princeton, where the school board may decide to shift graduation from the traditional Friday night to Sunday afternoon.

Why? Because seniors participating in tournaments can barely get back in time for graduation ceremonies on Friday night, possibly missing their ceremonies entirely.

A parent, who objects to the change, said she contacted the High School League and was told they have to schedule tournaments when the fields and the diamonds are available. Sports wins again.

This problem doesn’t exist only in Princeton. The High School League Board of Directors should consider changing the schedule when most high schools throughout the state have graduation ceremonies Friday nights.

No one questions the value of playing sports as a character- and team-building experience. Without a doubt, sports participation is an opportunity for parents to be involved meaningfully with their youngsters.

However, a balanced approach is needed.

Don Heinzman is a member of the ECM Editorial Board. 

  • Joe Drennan


    You highlight a great issue I have with youth sports right now. Having covered sports and now having nieces and nephews in this mess and soon my own kids. I think youth sports are broken. Sports organizations have realized they can make money with these weekend tournaments and they got greedy. Yes they help cover the cost of uniforms and equipment, but do the kids need to be outfitted like pro teams or have brand new equipment every season? I remember my Little League uniform was a T-shirt with our team name on the front and the local store sponsoring the team to pay for the shirts. Our registration fees went towards equipment/umpires and park fees. Funny thing was park fees were almost non-existent as it was the park running the league and we didn’t have the newest equipment. In fact many of our metal bats often times had a dent or two.

    I think parents are pushing their children too hard to become super stars, and the associations are seeing the profit possibilities in having tournaments every chance they get. If these tournaments lead to lower participation fees I’d understand it, but it seems participation fees have only gone up so they can pay to play in all these tournaments.

    The other problem I have with all these tournaments is that it takes away from the joy of of winning a tournament, and the mystique tournaments once held. I used to only play in 1 or 2 tournaments a year so they were exciting. If you play in a tournament every weekend and everyone gets a participation trophy/medal do they really mean anything? On top of that so many of them are billed as “State Tournaments” or “National Championship Tournaments” but when there are 15 of them in the Metro alone, then another 10 out state in MN can you really determine who the real state champion is?

    Youth sports are broke, but as Yogi Berra once said, “Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets.”