Cutting Back on Sports and Other Demanding Activities for the Sake of Family and Church

The Wall Street Journal‘s recent story, “Kids Quit the Team for More Family Time,” reminds us of the constantly escalating demands on the time of young people involved in competitive sports. The problem is not just with sports, but can also occur in drama, forensics, music, and other competitive fields, but sports often takes the cake when it comes to demanding a high percentage of a young person’s life.

I’m pleased to see that some people are pushing back. The story focuses on parents who say no, but I know some young people who recognized that if they stuck with a high school team, they wouldn’t be able to attend seminary, mutual, and other church and family events, and decided to push back and say no on their own. Some switch from a sport they would have enjoyed, like basketball or football, to one with more reasonable demands (tennis in my part of the world falls into that category).

Many of us appreciate the opportunities and discipline that competitive sports can bring, but parents and youth should step back and weigh the demands and costs versus the benefits and make wise decisions in light of family, church, and other aspects of life that might be neglected. Tough decisions with no simple answers.

Parents, talk to your kids about sports.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

21 thoughts on “Cutting Back on Sports and Other Demanding Activities for the Sake of Family and Church

  1. I would ask my kids to choose sports over weekday Church activities. Too often I see unhealthy overweight people at church who teach their children the same bad habits they have. A life that is enjoyed is a life worth living. Sports teach too much and are too important in developing good exercise habits to pass up for church meetings sitting in a chair for hours. There are too many demands on our children from church; sacrificing sports is not one of them in my household.

  2. Our daughter played on a club soccer team that at times required Sunday playing (usually at tournaments)and thus missing some Sunday church meetings. But she otherwise was very active in the church, including early morning seminary, and went on to BYU for college. She had a wonderful experience with her club soccer including making several close friends which have continued after the soccer finished. Her commitment to her faith was well known by her teammates who respected her faith. Although my daughter missed some church meetings with her soccer, I believe it was on the whole a very worthwhile and positive experience for her and did not negatively impact her church involvement and testimony. I do, however, agree that if she had not been so involved with the church, such as missing seminary due to sports, I would not have supported this type of high level sports.

  3. tennis in my part of the world falls into that category

    This was my sport of choice in HS. Basketball was too competitive and time-consuming.

    I don't know that there is One Right Answer here, but I do think it's important for families to think carefully about these things and not just go with the tide of the culture around us. There's a lot of pressure, I think, to do extracurricular activities.

  4. Only a fanatic would put church activity above family. Or a bishop or SP who spends 8-10 hours on the day of rest doing church work.

  5. I go to an Evvie church, and the pastor talked about how he kept his kid from playing soccer because it made him miss the youth church on Wednesday.

    Said he would rather have him be plugged into God than not.

    I felt sorry for the kid because that probably meant something to him, especially in his growing adolescent years, but I understand the reasoning.

    Tough choice.

  6. It would be good to quantify this so any non-LDS visitors know what Jeff is exhorting youth to do.

    A fully participating LDS youth away from Utah (where transportation time is important) does:
    1.5 hours X 5 days=7.5 hours for seminary plus transportation
    4 hours for Sunday church (including transporation and parents talking in halls afterwards)
    2.5 hours for Mutual (weekly evening meetings)
    Plus scout work towards eagle (if a boy), plus Duty to God award, plus occasional firesides on Sunday evenings, and quorum/class responsibilities.
    This is 14-16 hours per week of religion during the school year, not including any non-church programmed scripture study, prayer, keeping a journal, serving in the community, etc, though Duty to God programmatizes this kind of activity too.

    This time commitment is usually higher that of an active adult.

  7. This mentality is one contributing factor as to why there are so few Mormons in professional athletics. It is also why so few Mormons become professional artists, musicians, writers, actors, etc. Some things require large amounts of time to take to a level of excellence. Far too often, we settle for the mediocre just so we can re-hash doctrinal principles over and over again, just so we can attend yet another Ward Christmas Party and fake-smile at all the kids acting like shepherds with towels around their heads. Overkill might keep some people active, but I think it just burns out EVERYONE.

  8. I have kids. The culture of our day in middle class America is to sign kids up for activities. There aren't kids to play with in the neighborhoods because people have fewer kids and they are all at daycare or scheduled activities.
    As a mom, being chauffeur to all these things DOES interfere with family time. There isn't a one size fits all for every family. Each child is different. Each situation is different. Every activity takes a different amount of time, expense, transportation commitment.
    Parents need to take a step back and look at the situation objectively and make sure the different priorities are in place.

  9. I agree with the previous commenter. There are far too many LDS dentists, lawyers and accountants and too few artists and intellectuals and scholars. The culture would do well to diversify beyond "Pleasantville" meets "Leave It To Beaver" and move into the 21st century like the rest of America.

  10. Cutting Back on Sports and Other Demanding Activities for the Sake of Family and Church??
    I think that is backwards. I suggest cutting back on the Demands put on us at Church and spend more time with our kids playing sports and doing other family activities that don't include being reverent and wearing clothes we can't roll around in. In fact, the whole notion that we can't miss church meetings and must attend makes us sound cultish. It's like we have to attend our weekly brainwashing meetings.

  11. Signing kids up for sports doesn't really help "family time." These sports aren't for the whole family to play together. It usually means driving your kid and dropping them off at practice leaving the other kids at home, or dragging the younger ones along and hanging out there. It is exhausting.
    Today we had swim meet. My husband opted out because he wanted to work on the garage. He stayed home with the little kids.

  12. Frankly, we put far too many church demands on our youth.

    I have two teenage boys.

    This has been their week . .

    Last Sunday, 3 hours of church followed by BYC for both and one is one the stake youth advertising committee. The shortest was 4.5 hours and the longer one was involved 6 hours. Then, in the evening, we had a fireside for the role out of the new Duty to God. Another hour.

    One Tuesday was mutual for a couple hours.

    Thursday, Friday and until 3:30 pm Saturday was a trek.

    This evening was a stake 24th of July activity.

    Tomorrow is Sunday.

    When do they have time for friends, work or hobbies?? And, this is the Summer time so school isn't a factor.

    I personally think the limit should be 4-5 hours a week.

    We've simply spawned too many programs and too many meetings. It is time to hack them back for youth — severely.

  13. I reread my post and it was a bit different then I intended.

    I think a key is that when a big active is scheduled, nothing else should be.

    For instance, if it is the week BYC is held, why a fireside a couple hours later?

    In a week where they are gone for a few days, why not cancel mutual?

    And, don't schedule the trek the week of the 24th of July.

    It really is out of hand. Last week, both were involved in high adventure camp for three days. And, of course, it was proceeded by mutual. Then, the Sunday before, it was church plus quorum presidency meetings plus home teaching plus a fireside.

    When I was a teen, it wasn't this overdone.

    I noticed our former stake president has just opted his kid out of most everything.

    His boy rarely goes to mutual (has a job). Football is his primary focus. He skipped the trek and the high adventure.

    I'm beginning to wonder if we should be far more selective. I just hate to let leaders down when they work hard to plan — but enough is enough.

    I wonder if

  14. "In fact, the whole notion that we can't miss church meetings and must attend makes us sound cultish. It's like we have to attend our weekly brainwashing meetings."

    Church attendance is not mandatory. School attendance is. and for those in sports, mandatory attendance to all sorts of practices and events is the name of the game. As for sounding "cultish," have you noticed that the typical high school sports program demands total loyalty to a human authority figure, demands strict and blind obedience, puts its members through demanding and even painful rituals and ordeals, relies on peer pressure and other pressure tactics to get members to do things they would not normally do, requires extreme sacrifice of time, and even demands that everybody wear the same clothing. It sounds more cultish than any real religion I've heard of, at least using popular definitions for "cult."

    The anti-cult ministries might do well to shift their focus to football and basketball.

  15. A little harsh Jeff, but right on. My son and I once home taught a sister who complained the whole time how busy she is. On the way home my son realized he had a tougher schedule.

    A point missed by some is that the young men/young women are often selected to do the serving at ward activities.

    One last point. Sports can be a family activity. Kids love talking about what they do. Listen to them.

  16. My children are young, but are at the age when most of their peers are playing a few sports. I've had a hard time with buying into the craze.

    Yes, sports can be good. We play tennis together often, I run, my husband is an avid mountain biker and golfer, but I hestitate to put my children into sports – as they've become increasingly competitive and time consuming.

    A friend of mine has children the same age, and they have 4 different games or practices at 4 different times nearly every night of the week. She was telling me how they don't have much time for FHE anymore. I felt sorry for her – as her family is missing out on such a wonderful opportunity.

    Anyway – I agree with your post – it is something to talk about with your children, and I keep thinking that the big picture, my ultimate goal, is to teach my children to come to Christ. All things need to be done in wisdom and in order.

  17. As the last poster said, there needs to be a balance, and reasonableness on either side. I think prayerfully determining what is best for each specific family is a good route to go. I know a Bishop (my Bishop) whose son is an equestrian and, because he lives in MA, where there are not many members and everyone else does things on Sunday, he needs to go to rallies from time to time on Sundays. This wonderful kid continues to excel at what he does, and it brings him enjoyment in happiness. Whenever he doesn't have a rally, he goes to Church with his parents, and they are great about teaching all of their children about the Gospel through word and deed, even though they are often all busy between school, work, and Church. I admire their efforts, and especially all that they do to allow their children do enjoy doing what they love while also keeping them close to the fold.

  18. I'm not LDS but I can tell you the LDS kids in my neighborhood are extremely busy, as are the LDS kids I teach. IMO it's way too much. Kids need to be kids sometimes. Give them time to roll in the grass and climb trees.

    By the same token, many kids have too many sports going on. When I was a kid in Colorado, there were NO non-church activities on Sunday. Now it's very normal. Thankfully, that mindset hasn't caught on in Utah, yet.



  20. I agree totally with Jeff and cutting back on sports etc. Something I didn't see him mention that may not be a problem where he lives is Sports making inroads to ''time'' that used to be left for Church etc. It used to be Wed nights and Sun were left alone . But now am finding that some sports are being held on Wed night . And about six months ago I was on my way to Church at 8:30 and saw kids practicing baseball at the middle school on Sun .(several weeks in a row ) Are you kidding ? I thought now they are playing on Sun .
    Too often Sports are treated as holy and put first . I am a Scoutmaster in my ward and see this all the time . People try to let non member sports take the place of the Activity arm of the Priesthood . As far as obiesty goes . Sports isn't going to help a lot with that . You have to cut down on calorie intake and poor food choices . Like fast food all the time cause you are a shuttle service and don't have time to cook . And as far as demands on time from Church . I would put that first after family of course and if something needs to go it would be the sports. Nobody has ever asked me in the past 10 years if I played sports as a kid (which I did )etc. but was asked 29 times last year if I was an Eagle Scout . Which I am not but would trade the sports I played to be an Eagle Scout (outside of Scouting circles ) . When something starts to Yeager Bird family and gospel time , it's time to step back and reaccess our priorities for eternity .

  21. And as far as members in Pro Sports goes . Could care less. All we need is another member playing on Sun so the youth get the wrong impression and have an excuse to watch sports on Sun .As for the Ward Christmas parties etc. That is a blessing to you now and into eternity . Can't say that for Sports . I like sports don't get me wrong . My niece is on 2 Soccor teams and I go to all the games .But if it is a choice between Church and Sports she has been taugth right to choose Church first . Girls camp over Soccor Camp etc. Must look at the long term benefits and why we are here on earth to begin with .

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