The other night my neighbor had his 11-year-old son in the backyard taking swings in a make-shift batting cage. The boy's baseball season had just ended the night before.
And while I'm not sure whose idea it was to head outside and hit balls, I can only guess based on the father's barking voice and the sweating scowl on the recipient's face, that it was not the son's suggestion.
Kids enjoy the summer months because they get a break from the stresses of school. Other than a few summer reading assignments, which, let's face it, usually get completed the night before the first day of school, kids can just be kids. And for many, this means not having the pressure and stress that is often involved with being on a youth sports team.
That boy across the street was out hitting balls every night during the season, and my guess is, wanted to be out there swinging in order to improve his game and keep his name on the lineup card. But now that the season is over, I can't help but think he'd rather be in a pool somewhere, or maybe just inside chilling in front of the television.
As parents, we need to keep that in mind. While there's nothing wrong with kids being outside in the summer playing baseball or basketball or maybe even a sport they never play in an organized league, they should do so on their own terms. It shouldn't be because we parents are making threats about how the other players are all practicing on their own or playing on travel teams or in summer leagues, and, "if you don't, you'll be left off the team."
If your son (or daughter) does ask you to shoot hoops with him in the driveway or take him to the batting cages, that's great. But try not to offer advice unless he asks. Just observe, much like you would if your child chose to read a book that wasn't on his summer reading list, but that he decided to read just for fun.
My guess is you wouldn't be looking over his shoulder trying to hone his reading skills. Nor should you try to fine-tune his swing, ... unless he asks.
I try to remember this simple rule during the summer: The best way for a kid to spend his time during the summer when it comes to playing sports, is simply, however he wants to.
Jon Buzby's columns appear in newspapers and magazines around the country as well as numerous websites. Email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him @JonBuzby on Twitter.