The other night my two sons and I were riding our bikes and noticed the 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 weekend 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 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 on a bike ride.
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As parents, we need to keep that in mind. While there's nothing wrong with kids being outside during 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 barking to them about how the other players are all practicing on their own or playing on travel teams or in summer leagues, and threatening, "If you don't practice every night, you'll be left off the team next year."
If your child does ask you to shoot hoops in the driveway or take him to the batting cages, that's great.
But try not to offer advice unless asked. Just observe 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 or making sure he was focused on the details of each chapter. Nor should you try to fine-tune his swing or change the form of his jump shot, ... unless he asks.
I try to remember this simple rule: The best way for kids to spend their free time during the summer when it involves sports is simply, however they choose.