Balance needed in sports scheduling for other activities

There’s a big juggling act going on in suburban communities as parents try to balance their children’s sports participation with other important family activities.

This is particularly the case with parents who have children who play tournaments on weekends. Often parents are forced to choose between either having their kids play ball all-day Sunday or taking them to church and participating in other family activities.

Usually, parents choose the tournament play, fearing their children will be penalized for not showing up. Church officials say that until parents boycott Sunday games, nothing will happen.

One coach has a simple answer: If you want your children to go to church, don’t have them join the team. Coaches are confident that, given the choice of choosing sports or Sunday activities, parents will choose sports.

Those who schedule money-making weekend tournaments contend the ball fields are available on weekends; parents who don’t work on weekends can go to the fields with their children.

There are some answers. One coach says he will not schedule a game on Sunday morning, at least leaving the afternoon for ball playing. Tournaments could be scheduled Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The Minnesota State High School League, which regulates high school sports, does not schedule tournaments on Sundays.

Privately, some parents will tell you they wish Sundays were free for quality time with all members of the family, particularly the ones who don’t play sports.

Parents should check with the coaches to see if, in fact, their children would be penalized for not showing up Sunday, as they decide whether to sign up their children.

If enough parents of the skilled players rose up and asked for leniency from the Sunday scheduling, coaches would change the scheduling.

An issue related to sports scheduling has come up in Princeton, where the School Board may decide to shift graduation from the traditional Friday night to Sunday afternoon.

Why? Because seniors participating in tournaments can barely get back in time for graduation ceremonies on Friday night, possibly missing their ceremonies entirely.

A parent, who objects to the change, said she contacted the High School League and was told they have to schedule tournaments when the fields and the diamonds are available. Sports wins again.

This problem doesn’t exist only in Princeton. The High School League Board of Directors should consider changing the schedule when most high schools throughout the state have graduation ceremonies Friday nights.

No one questions the value of playing sports as a character- and team-building experience. Without a doubt, sports participation is an opportunity for parents to be involved meaningfully with their children.

However, a balanced approach is needed.

Don Heinzman is a columnist for ECM Publishers and a member of the ECM Editorial Board.