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360° Perspective: Kids and Sports

Posted at 10:17 PM, Aug 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-23 00:17:22-04

Kids are headed back to school meaning sports and after-school activities are ramping up for many families. Sports can be important, teaching kids teamwork, dedication and how to win and lose. But kids are competing now at younger ages and higher levels, meaning more money and travel as well, so we're taking a look at the demands in this 360° Perspective.

The Gudridge family is making some big life changes so their kids can compete. They went all in after noticing their kids potential at an early age. The two boys play at the AAA hockey level and between the two, they practice six days a week. The parents take turns driving them to the rink that's 45 minutes away. They travel a lot during the fall and winter. It comes with a lot of commitment and sacrifice. The kids each missed between 30 and 40 days of school last year. They maintained good grades but switched to a hockey intensive school to try and find more balance.

"This new school will just help us to have flexibility in their schedule. They do the training during the day and their schooling as well," Nicole Gudridge said.

Some other parents are worried there may be too much focus on sports now, and kids should be kids.

12-year-old Parker Lupher is a Junior Olympic Gymnast. He practices five days a week, four hours a day. He's in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most double-leg circle rotations on a mushroom trainer. His father worries it may be a little too much, it's like he's working a part-time job, and he worries he may be sacrificing his childhood for the sport.

Still, he says Parker is learning important life lessons including discipline, work ethic and self-confidence. He leaves it up to his son to decide how much he wants to do.

"He fails a lot and I think that his failing has really helped him just in life in general. As long as he wants to do it and as long as he loves it, we're going to support it," Brad Lupher said.

Brian Gearity is a former college football player. He's a sports professor at DU and a dad. He says there can be downsides, like traumatic brain injuries, concussions, also exclusion... some young people with lower means may not be able to take part. For those who can afford it, it can be costly so parents may have high expectations.

His son recently stepped out of gymnastics. He says he pushes his kids to succeed but supports his son's decision to take a break.

"He said, I'm not having fun anymore. We talked about it. We developed about a two month plan to finally withdraw," Gearity said, "We confuse sports and play because sometimes we play sports, but not all sports are play."

One sports psychologist, Steve Portenge, says competition is just a part of life, and there's more to sports than simple athletic ability. He says competitiveness can happen at any level, and parents can put unintentional pressure on kids.

"Asking did you win, versus, did you have fun, or did you learning something. It's a small thing, but it creates a big impression," Portenge said, "Teach through those processes as opposed to trying to protect and hide and pretend they don't exist."

He says for better or worse, competition is an inherent part of how we do things in our culture and it's up to each family to decide on the balance between the love of the game, the push for success and the sacrifices to make along the way.

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Thanks to KMGH for their contribution to this report.