Private vs. Public High Schools

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This summer, Reagan competed in a basketball summer league that invited many of our area’s private high school coaches to watch games between some of the best upcoming-8th graders in the area.

When he initially tried out and joined his summer league team, we were excited for him to be with such an amazing group of competitors, as playing with kids who are better can make you better. In this league, he has played with and against some amazing players, some of whom are actually one to two years older having been been ‘reclassified‘ to their current grade (really not that uncommon, it seems).  In spite of spotty playing time, he’s very much benefited from being on a team that plays a different style of ball than he’s used to, and he’s grown from it tremendously.  Overall, this was a good experience from a playing perspective.

But with the league’s focus on private school basketball recruitment, we’ve also forayed into the discussion about whether attending a private school would be of benefit to Reagan.  Being seen by the private high school coaches was a huge draw for many of the boys in this league and their parents, and it was hard not to get caught up in the frenzy and pride of it all.

There are so many things to think through and topics to parse out from this experience, and a wide variety of opinions from youth coaches, other parents, and kids.  Like,

  • What is the benefit of a private high school education vs. our local public schools?
  • Do private schools offer a better sports experience than our local public schools?
  • If my son desires to play college sports, will playing for a private school team give him an advantage?
  • If my son attends a private school, what affect will it have on our family’s finances and lifestyle?
  • From a philosophical perspective, is it beneficial for my not-yet-matured son and us, his parents, to be involved in such a recruitment process a year out from him actually attending these schools given all the physical/mental/spiritual growth that happens during this year of adolescence?
  • How do any of these decisions benefit my child and our family in the Grand Scheme of Life?

Reagan, as any sports-crazed competitive kid might, likes the mystical idea of being recruited to play for a private high school.   At 13, it’s almost as if these boys are “playing dress up” for the college recruitment process four years early.  Reagan hasn’t received much attention from private school coaches at this point as he didn’t get a lot of playing time on this new-to-him summer team, and we haven’t pursued any of these schools either.  But we want to be proactive in thinking through the private vs. public school decision before the fall when his regular club team gears up.

I really don’t have any answers to these questions, but I do have my leanings.  My husband and I are both products of public schools, which gave us the educational foundation to be successful academically in college.  We both also played Division I sports as well and are living proof that attending a private school is not the only path to success in academics, sports, and life. While my son is quick to point to the extremely successful college and NBA stars that have attended some of these private schools, I’m not sure we can say that they wouldn’t have been successful anyway if they had attended different schools. It’s an interesting discussion.

So, I’m taking a deep breath and continuing to talk to other parents, coaches, and friends.  There will be more discussions and posts as we navigate this uncharted-for-us water.  And I’m trying to keep perspective that there is life before, during, and after basketball.

 

Carpooling

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It’s a challenge when one parent (me) has primary responsibility of getting four kids to their different sports on time.  One mom. One minivan. Four kids.  All over the place.

It’s a blast as well as a logistical puzzle. It’s more challenging for me as an introvert who likes to be self-sufficient. Suffice it to say, I’ve had to leave my comfort zone.

Fortunately, not everyone I know is an introvert, and thankfully, some people are also brilliant enough to know that self-sufficiency is a lonely and unproductive place.  As humans, we need other humans, and they need us, too.

So last year, the dad of one of my daughter’s swim teammates approached me when he found out we  lived somewhat near them.

“Would you be interested in carpool?” he asked.

They also have four kids in different sports and  were looking to ride share.

“Sure,” I said to him with little hesitation.  We came up with a flexible schedule where two days a week they drive home. Two days we do. We text at the beginning of the week to see what works best for that week’s schedule. Because in any given week, for him and for us, it could totally change. Raising athletes is a busy, dynamic business.

This isn’t the first or only time we’ve been part of a carpool, had other kids ride along with us (which is fairly regular in our house), or gotten our kids rides, but this was the first time we did so with someone I didn’t know so well.

And it’s been great. It’s been wonderful to get to know this other family better, which might not have happened otherwise.  It’s helped solve many scheduling issues for us when practices have overlapped. It’s occasionally given me some much-needed time at home.  I could go into how it’s helping to clean up the environment by having less cars on the road, but you already know that part.

Since starting this, we’ve had to review some carpooling etiquette as a family.  We greet and say goodbye to people that get in and out of our car and try to include them in conversations when appropriate. We say, “Thank you,” to those who give us rides.  We try to keep our car tidy (really, we’re still working on that one).

I realize that the idea of carpooling isn’t new or rocket science. I have not stumbled upon the cure for incurable diseases.  However, it’s been a platform for me to think about the bigger picture aspects of what we are doing as a family, what are we trying to teach our kids, and how we’re living life.  I’ve seen the benefit of approaching other people I might not know as well when I need helping hand.  I find it easy to say yes to someone who asks for help, but harder to ask for help myself.

And in the bigger picture of life, living in community with one another means getting to know each other and helping each other out. I hope my kids will learn this lesson along with me.

 

 

“I Don’t Want To Swim Anymore!”

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This summer, my husband and I have ruminated and debated about letting our nine year old quit her year round swim team. I remind myself that in the grand scheme of life, this will be of small significance… but what if it’s not? And herein lies the debate.

Let me start from the beginning, which really is the middle of last swim season. In March, my daughter Ann put it out there that she didn’t want to “swim next year” meaning when September rolled around, and the new season began.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because I just want to play,” she replied.

And my heart melted. Of course. She’s a kid. I’ve read the myriad of articles on the benefits of free play and how kids need adequate amounts of unstructured play to think best and thrive in this world. But instead of play in the backyard, she has four afternoons and one Saturday morning per week of rushing out the door to swim practice, followed by 75 minutes of swim.

While at swim practice this year, she has sometimes struggled with stomach aches and anxiety, occasionally stopping during a tough swim set to sit on the side in tears. We’ve encouraged her along the way, conferred with her coaches, and worked to improve her pre-practice nutrition as that has SIGNIFICANTLY played a role as well. But she has declared herself done, and has repeated herself enough for us to know she means it.

As I initially processed this, I thought, OK, she doesn’t want to do this anymore and I don’t want to have a sometimes-anxious kid to coax back in the pool. Let’s be done! A win-win for us both. I started feeling a little lighter in my spirit.

Until I talked to my husband. “Let’s not make a decision now,” he said in March.  “Let’s see how summer swimming goes.” His rationale was that the more relaxed atmosphere of our summer team would encourage her to stick with it.

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“OK,” I agreed, and we forged through the next few months hoping for a change of heart.

Summer swimming is separate but concurrent with her year round team. It’s a six week season of fun dual meets and hanging out with  friends at the outdoor pool where we have a summer membership. With her year-round training, she especially excels in this environment, but more than that she socializes with her gal pals whom she only sees during the summer and just generally looks like she loves it.

But in spite of her summer fun, she regularly kept up her mantra. “I don’t want to swim next year, remember mom?”

“Yes, yes, I know, sweet girl.”

Sigh.

One of the hard parts about year round swimming is the ongoing nature of it. With other sports, you can often define a single season as about three or four months, like for basketball, soccer, and volleyball. While the trend for these sports seems to also be moving more towards year-round training (more on that in a future post), competitive swimmers are fully in the year round category, taking only very short breaks from their training.

There are a lot of factors involved in this for us so that it’s really not as simple a decision as it may seem:

  • Regardless of whether she swims on the team or not, our other three kids do, so she doesn’t really have the option to stay home and have unstructured play everyday as she’d like to. Instead she will be sitting next to me watching the other kids swim or running any errands we’ll need to fit in.
  • She’s a very talented swimmer. She’s been in the water since she was a baby and swimming since she was four years old. She smiles when she’s playing in the water. In the past she has enjoyed the sport and excelled at it.
  • She enjoys hanging out with the girls on her team. They play together and she has fun with them.
  • The exercise! She’ll need to find a way to get some exercise now. Runs in the morning? Cartwheels at lunch? Now I’ll need to make sure she gets some good physical activity in another way.
  • Our older two kids had their own moments of wanting to quit year round swimming, and they both pushed through it (with our active encouragement) and are happy that they did.

So, we talked to her year round coaches to let them know we were not signing her up for next year. They were gracious and accommodating, assuring us that if she changed her mind once the season started, she was welcome back. We couldn’t ask for better than that.

Yesterday I read an article about coercing your child versus giving them freedom to make their own decisions. The author leaned more toward the coercing side when you (the parent) believe it’s best for the child and their abilities. It was good food for thought, but in the end, I’m confident that this is the best next step. If she decides to go back to swimming year round, she will really want it.

 

Trying Something New

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August is a bit of a lull for our family sports-wise. No major swim competitions for the kids to prepare for until October, and no other fall sports (at this point).  So my eleven year old, Faith, asked to go to a tennis camp with a friend so she could try her hand at it (no pun intended).

She’s been learning the basics of the game for three hours each morning and having a great time. And can I just say how appreciative I am for our county Recs and Parks program?! They contracted with a local tennis school to offer the camp up at the high school that’s closest to us and have made it affordable for kids to be able to have an introduction to this sport without a huge financial or time commitment. A win for Recs and Parks for helping to fulfill their mission of providing recreational opportunities for folks. A win for the tennis school to get some more kids interested in further pursuing the sport. And certainly a win for Faith to get good quality instruction close to home.

I learned how to play tennis in a high school PE class, with a ratio of one teacher to about 25 students. As a softball player, it was hard to reign in the inclination to smack the heck out of the ball way over the fence. Um….maybe that’s good for softball, but it won’t win you a lot of tennis games or partners. I’ve gotten a little better over the years with some occasional play with my husband. I’m hopeful that this camp will be a good entrée for Faith and me to spend some time volleying up at the court. Because really, in the grand scheme of life, building relationships with my kids is a big part of what it’s all about.

So cheers to August and some welcome time to trying something new. Has this summer given your kids any new opportunities?

 

Rest

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This is the first weekend in 7 weeks that I haven’t been to a swim meet or a basketball game. Most of those weekends have involved both sports. Time in the car. Time at the pool. Time at the gym.  As I sit on my back deck and watch the birds and squirrels, three of my kids are lounging inside, sleeping in and having some unstructured time. I inhale and feel at peace. The rest is welcome.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the sports-filled weekends. We’ve chosen them, in fact, very thoughtfully and purposefully, knowing beforehand what the schedule demands will be. But just like with anything else, times of rest are needed and important.

I read an interesting book (started it during one of my son’s basketball practices), which described how stress in our lives can be important for growth, just like an athlete builds muscles by balancing stress and work with adequate recovery.  Without appropriate amounts of both stress and rest, optimal growth isn’t achieved.

August is the one month of the year that our family gets the most rest from organized sports. There are still a few practices and maybe a local basketball tournament if we decide to go, but the feeling is much more relaxed. We are purposeful in our rest.

So today and this month, I am reveling in the stillness and in a less hectic schedule, knowing that come September, we will need to be ready to jump in and enjoy our next marathon of a school and sports year.

What do you do to ensure you get enough rest?

Last Second Shot

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Last week, my son’s basketball team lost in the last second of the game.  Let me rephrase that, his team lost the game, but had the opportunity to win in the last second. They did not lose in the last second. They had played a full 32 minutes and had the opportunity to win by their collective efforts during the entire game.

I watched the reaction of the kid when he missed the last-second shot. Anguished. Hands over his face, then through his hair.  I looked at his mom. I don’t know her very well so I don’t know what thoughts she had at that moment, but her look was both of disappointment and concern. Her son is a very smart, competitive player. The team had lost, and he was blaming himself at that moment.

The last second doesn’t define the game.

Just like a person’s dying moment doesn’t define their life.  I was with my grandfather when he died several years ago. He died in very unfamiliar surroundings to the beautiful rural Virginia mountains where he had lived most of his life… in a hospital, after bypass surgery had not worked to improve his health but rather had begun a cascade of health issues, snowballing into the need for leg amputations and then the shutdown of his organs. He had grown up on a farm and had been a lumber man, spending his days outside more than inside, walking and farming and living. We remember him for his rich life full, not for how it ended.

We remember the last second because it is full of emotion, but a game well played, just like a life well lived trumps the last second anytime.

If the last second shot is a winner, we can celebrate, but also remember that there were other shots that enabled that one to seal the deal. If the last second shot bricks, we can remember those missed buckets and free throws from all the previous minutes.

My son happened not to be in the game at the last second.  A fan that we didn’t know came up to him afterwards and said loudly as we were walking out, “You should have been in the game. You would have made that basket.”  Unfortunately, this fan said it as we were walking near the kid who missed the shot. Ouch.  My son had been in the game previously, and he had played a good, but not perfect, game. He made shots, but he missed some shots too. He played good defense and grabbed rebounds, but  there were missed opportunities from him and every other player.  Basketball is a team game, and it comes down to how well the team played together, not the individual player who makes or misses the last second shot.

I wanted to reach out to the kid who missed the shot to say something encouraging. But there are moments in which words are lacking. Sometimes silence good, and sometimes, it’s awkward.  But then words can come out awkwardly as well and then hang in the dark night air.

So I chose silence with him and words with my son in the car about how the last second shot feels good when you make it, terrible when you miss it, but it doesn’t define the game.