As a child, rec sports leagues meant awesome snacks, hanging out with friends and maybe just learning a sport or two. I loved it, participating in soccer, T-ball, baseball and football. In the fall and spring, Saturdays meant spending hours on huge grassy fields with rows of soccer fields.

I have no idea how my parents were able to keep such devotion to it all.

Now I’m the parent and it’s hard. But as my wife and I look out at our two boys playing soccer at Mentock Park, I think I understand why my parents gave up nights and weekends. 

To be clear, my parents weren’t traveling all over the state of Colorado to watch me play – aside from driving to Denver for high school lacrosse away games – but I understand now the sacrifice made by parents, who have full-time jobs and after work have to have one eye on dinner plans.

I also see why late dinner, or quick early dinners, are worth the hassle. There’s an incredible pride you get from seeing your child compete and be part of a team. There’s the camaraderie of parents too, cheering on each other’s young athletes. 

I see how important youth sports are. Now that both of our boys play, they’re much more apt to go outside and play soccer together instead of always bickering with each other. Having children in sports helps instill in them a love of being active. 

There’s also something vitally important about knowing how to be part of a team. Soccer is not generally a game where you can be successful without passing. (However, my son’s kindergarten team includes an incredible youngster who I’m sure is already being scouted as a future prospect for big European clubs). 

Of course, this is still youth sports and I’ve learned to embrace the less-competitive side too. My 5-year-old can be very engaged and excited about the game – or he can do handstands while on defense or simply dive onto his belly. With him, my biggest challenge has been teaching him how to be motivated – luckily he has a great coach who is doing so as well.

The older son has no problems being motivated. Last week, our 9-year-old used up much of his energy running to the bathroom and back, in order to not miss much time. With him, the challenge is not letting him be too critical of himself. Luckily, he has a coach who notices his accomplishments and teammates who boost each other up. 

These lessons can be learned without youth sports, but there’s something about the whole experience that provides the perfect setup.

Recently my father and stepmother came up to see the boys play and my experience came full circle. When I was just getting into sports, my father was my first soccer coach. He taught me to be more intense and aggressive than I had been and to give it my all while on the field. He told me never to quit on my teammates and never get to down on myself. 

At the game they watched, he was giving my son the same advice at Mentock Park. And I thought, yes, this is worth a late dinner.

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