Balancing Family and Sports


As the spring soccer season winds to a close, my husband and I must decide whether or not to allow our 7-year-old son to try out for an academy level soccer team, the level above recreational but just below select soccer.  On this team, he would work out with professional trainers and compete against neighboring soccer clubs.  While it would not require any out of town traveling or a required increase in his practice schedule, he would no longer practice or play in our neighborhood.

We are weighing the pros and cons of moving him up..  Our son is a great athlete and good soccer player.  He shows promise with ball handling, excels at ball control and has amazing speed. He really enjoys the sport and would benefit from playing with and against other boys at the higher level, but we struggle with him getting too serious about a sport too fast at his young age.

I’ve seen many friends whose lives revolve around their 9-year-old’s sports schedule.  Our family loves spending time together on weekends and having dinner together almost every night.  While I’m confident the regular game schedule will be similar to our past schedules, I worry that tournaments could interfere with our regular Sunday Mass time and weekend family togetherness.

We are so proud that our young son is growing into an athlete and want to encourage and promote him to succeed in the sport he loves.  Understanding that at some point in our near future, that might mean progressing to teams with an even more demanding schedule has me concerned.   As the mom, it is my responsibility to find the balance between his love and desire for the game with what is best for our overall family.

Simply put, my concern is that if he moves up it could negatively impact our family life.  I would love to hear about your experiences with balancing family life and children’s sports or activities.

Copyright 2011 Lisa Jones


About Author

Lisa Henley Jones is a wife, mom, native Texan, and parish communications director. She enjoys reading, walking, going on date nights, and cheering on her kids in their activities. As a social media consultant, Lisa teaches Catholic parishes to engage, inspire, and evangelize on social media. Find her blog at Of Sound Mind & Spirit and her social media course at Parish Social Media.


  1. Lisa, this is such a tough decision to make. I never had a serious athlete, but this reminds me a quite a lot of the situation we had with Eric academically. When he was going into sixth grade, it was strongly suggested to us that we pull him out of the Catholic school he attended and send him to a highly acclaimed public school in our area or also that we pull him from his math class at our school and have him do an online independent study in math that would greatly accelerate him and better suit his skills. After much prayer, we decided not to do either but rather to leave him exactly where he was. I always second guessed that decision, wondering if we’d held him back. Looking at it in retrospect, I think we made the perfect choice for our family — at that time — and with God’s guidance. I don’t think it was the right decision for every family, but for us it was. I think you can seek input on this, but that ultimately you’ll make the decision that is best for you. I have a nephew who does quite a lot of travel sports on a very competitive basis and its been a really blessing for my sister and her family. They have lots of friends related to the team, they love traveling to his games as a family and he’s excelled not only at his sport but at many other areas that are important in life due to the discipline and the skills he’s learned as an athlete. They are able to handle the financial situation and have made this a priority as a family. Not the choice every family would have made, but for there’s it’s been a blessing. Also, remember that if you decide to do something it’s not a permanent — for life — situation. I will keep you in my prayers!

    • My older daughter who’s 5 years old has been evaluated to have exceptional ability in both math and reading several years beyond her current placement. We are in the process of reassessing whether she should continue at the Catholic school (highly rated, but not much in the gifted resources area and the principal is clearly reluctant), or go to the public school which has a dedicated gifted teacher. It is a real quandary for us: I love the values formation of the catholic school, but I don’t want her to be bored to tears sitting in a classroom for hours “learning” material she already knows. Did the Catholic school your son went to give him advanced placement? My other friends whose children go to Catholic school are in the same predicament. I wish some Catholic schools could offer more in that direction, so it didn’t have to be an either/or decision for parents and gifted kids.

      • Kat, I am not really qualified to talk about academics, and was really just sharing our story to say that each family needs to pray about — and also decide about — what it best for their children. My boys have been in both Catholic and public schools. I LOVE Catholic schools with all my heart. I also believe that a child’s faith is primarily taught at home and that anything learned at school is a bonus, but not a replacement for, living and teaching our faith in our homes. Have you spoken with moms of older children in the school about resources for gifted kids in older classes? Many times, well trained teachers can stimulate and challenge gifted children without having them be pulled away from the entire class. That was certainly our experience – I’m not sure I would say our boys are gifted, but they always did very well in school and on testing. I absolutely never felt they were disadvantaged by the choices we made. My eldest just finished freshman year at Harvard and I know the path he took through both Catholic and public schools served him well in getting there. Check all of your options, talk to lots of moms, and pray – and I will pray for you too!

        • Thanks, Lisa, for the valuable insights! I suppose either way will work, but I’m still hoping that she can stay in the Catholic school. Glad to hear both your sons are doing well!

  2. t will take over your life. You will find yourself telling your son to wash his hands before communion because they are covered with turf dirt. You will having him change into his soccer clothes from a suit on the way from May Crowning to a soccer tourney. You wil be going to Mass at odd times, interuppting games for HDOs, and going to church with one set of kids and your husband with another. If I had to do it again I would not. But our son would.

  3. Leslie Lenko on

    It is wonderful that your son has an additional opportunity to advance in his soccer but at his very young age, I would give this further consideration. Sports activities take a great deal of time, travel and energy. With our son, we actually waited until he was in 5th Grade before he joined a sports team. As a Catholic mom, the balance between faith, family time, school studies and prayer life is important to us. We wanted his foundation to be stronger and know the faith more and the meaning of team work before he took on a sports challenge. Your son will have many more years to advance in soccer. Right now he is young and most likely happy with participating in faith-filled activities with his church and family. Once a children becomes a teen so much of that changes as the teen becomes more independent. Some food for thought. Sounds like you have a great future with your sons sports either way!

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