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My child (7, nearly 8 and going on 16 - yes, all one child) is involved in Theater, Children's Choir, takes piano lessons, and has Tae Kwon Do 4 days a week (she is in the black belt club and working hard at moving through the advanced belts) and takes 30 minutes of swimming two nights per week. She also does 45 minutes of playing tennis with her Dad at least once/week and sometimes twice per week. She loves all of these activities.

Since we home school, having such a full schedule isn't as bad as it would be if she also had to do homework in the evenings and is, at this point do-able. However, she would like to add more theater and participate in beauty pageants. She is also interested in trying Soccer. The idea of adding the Soccer to her agenda intrigues me as she does not currently have a team sport and I'm sure there is a lot to be gained from participating in one.

Theater really requires a lot of team effort though too so I'm not sure how critical it is to add a team sport since our plate is already so full of activities. I've already told her she can't do pageants, choir and theater though and would have to choose one to let go in order to add in pageants. (Piano actually counts as a music class for her schooling.

Tae Kwon Do is already paid for in full for the entire next two years. She is in the "Black Belt Club which means she has set a goal to attain Black Belt status within the next two years and can start doing weapons classes which she is really excited about. Giving up TKD at this point is simply not a realistic option. The swimming is important to me so that she can safely swim and float if ever in a situation around water where these skills are needed (I grew up on an island and my parents still live there so we are on boats and around the water a lot). The Tennis is important time with Daddy.

I have been putting off starting soccer until I am comfortable allowing her to drop the swimming lessons, but she still can't float confidently on her own or swim across the pool without assistance. At the same time, I am concerned that if we wait too long, it may be hard for her to get on a team as a beginner with the other kids having had years of practice she will have missed out on.

How important is it for her to have the opportunity to play specifically in a team sport? She is obviously getting a lot of athletic activity as well as opportunities to practice working well with others. Even things like learning to pass the ball (in the sense of sharing the spotlight, not the actual physical skill) are addressed in theater as who gets the focus or spotlight shifts and changes throughout a scene and has some parallel skills and thinking that is required. Should I make her choose between theater and soccer? Should we choose to drop something else to make room for soccer because there are things she can get from being a member of an athletic team she is not getting elsewhere? Or should I continue as I am and hope she gets to a satisfactory skill level with Swimming this year before the Soccer Season begins in full?

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3 Answers 3

Life's most difficult choices aren't between something good and something bad, but between something good and something better. Being able to decide which good activities to say no to is a useful skill to impart to your daughter. There are always good reasons to add one more thing to your plate. The trick is to look at the big picture and recognize when the accumulation of good things is starting to get in the way of something better.

It seems like you are starting to recognize that something is giving way in order to make room for your daughter's activities, or else you wouldn't be asking the question. Sit down with your family and enumerate precisely what those things are, then make a conscious decision between those concrete things and the new activity. Maybe your daughter isn't making sacrifices, but you are. Your needs are important too.

Once you know exactly what you would be giving up, you will have enough information to make a decision. I would involve your daughter in making the decision. Give her the constraints and let her make the decision within those constraints. Perhaps being aware that she must swim at a certain level before starting something new will motivate her to work harder at her swimming.

As a hypothetical example, if one of the reasons you don't want to add something is that you need more time at home to complete essential chores, maybe your daughter would be willing to take on some of those chores in exchange for getting another activity.

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"Perhaps being aware that she must swim at a certain level before starting something new will motivate her to work harder at her swimming." +1 and done. She's overcoming a fear - enjoys the class, but really has trouble with floating on her back still and until she can let go of that fear she won't get all the way across the pool either. I do think she really is trying though and enjoys everything else about her swim lessons. –  balanced mama Jan 27 at 22:45
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My inclination is no. Her schedule seems extremely busy and it makes me wonder: Does she have any free time to play? Does she have any time to be a kid?

Team sports are incredibly important for social skills, as you indicate, but something would gave to be dropped. I must say that dropping swimming before she can swim doesn't seem all that smart – I come from a place where everyone learned to swim and now live in a place where there's a lake every 100 meters.

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She actually does have time to play because she gets through most of her schoolwork so quickly, but I agree we are bumping up against the limits here :-) –  balanced mama Jan 27 at 14:39
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Welcome to the world of the older child, where the available activities far exceed the hours in the day, or even week.

As a general answer, I very much like Karl Bielefeldt's -- he made good points about "good vs. bad" vs. "good vs. better;" your time commitment (not just your daughter's); and her improving her swimming or taking on chores in order to add an activity. However, for your particular situation, I like the idea of adding soccer, for the following reasons:

  • At your daughter's age the time commitment is only 2-3 hours a week (at least it is in our area of the country), and town soccer is restricted to spring (primary) and fall (secondary/optional). If you put the swimming on hold for the spring, you may find she progresses faster when she gets back to it in the summer: cross-training is good for every sport, and the running required for soccer may increase her wind and stamina.
  • Don't worry about it being "hard for her to get on a team as a beginner with the other kids having had years of practice she will have missed out on." Town soccer will generally take everybody, and they will always have a less skilled team for her. However, look at her personality for how important it is to her to be skilled at what she does. Some kids don't care how bad they are at something they like; if they like the game, they like to play even if they're the worst kid on their team. OTOH, if she's the type of kid who needs to be good at what she's doing -- if she would hate to be the kid who always loses the ball or never masters dribbling the ball down the field at top speed -- start her now.
  • Learning how to be a team player is useful, as you say. Some kids find this suits their personality more than others, but there are lessons (about getting along with others) to be learned here even if she finds she prefers individual sports. (It seems to me your daughter does not have a lot of peer-only activities (?), that most of her activities are leavened by adults or older kids or kids who also do unusual things. On a team of average kids her own age she'll need to learn how to remain friendly with: the kid who never passes the ball; the kid who always loses the ball; and the kid who can dribble rings around her. All annoyances in their own way!) She'll get the high of being part of a winning effort with her friends, as well as the chance to develop a healthy attitude towards losing.
  • In previous posts you've indicated that you have a high energy kid. I'm not sure how much aerobic exercise she's getting in swimming at her present level, but adding soccer can help enormously with managing her energy during her more sedate activities.

If you decide to postpone adding an activity until she's mastered swimming, I would definitely urge you to let her try soccer at some point in the next year or two. Even if she finds she doesn't like it after all, just having played it for a season (now or later) will expand her boundaries and allow her to make connections and be comfortable with the "team sport" kids. And who knows, maybe she'll find a new favorite thing.

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