News Herald – Juliann Talkington
If you think all youth soccer, ballet, football, and theater programs are kid centric, think again. These programs along with thousands of other “kids activities” are BIG BUSINESS.
Coaches, teachers, and trainers draw lucrative salaries and make extra income on clinics and consulting gigs. Hotels, restaurants, airlines, grocery stores, and convenience stores add cash to their coffers when families travel to compete. And promotional companies make money on web sites, uniform companies generate income with clothes and shoes….
All told, kids extracurricular activities infuse hundreds of millions of dollars into the U.S. economy each year.
So why do parents open their wallets so willingly? Top athletes and entertainment figures garner significant media attention and command large salaries. Combine this national attention with the unrealistic view many parents have of their children and you have a marketer’s dream.
Although the statistics vary from sport to sport, only about 1% of the high school athletes are selected to play for NCAA teams and only about one out of every 1000 high school athletes go on to professional careers. The odds of being a famous ballerina, movie star, or singer are even smaller.
Given the statistics, the costs, and the potential stress, should kids avoid extra curricular activities all together?
There are many studies that suggest outside activities provide kids with an opportunity to hone leadership skills, build friendships, learn the intricacies of working in groups, and develop life long interests –critical life skills.
So how should extracurricular activities be incorporated into a child’s middle/high school experience?
Monitor academic performance. Even if your child is a very talented athlete, musician, or artist, it is critical that he/she develop strong communication, numeracy, and problem solving skills, so he/she can find meaningful employment later in life.
Don’t compromise your family. It is important to eat together and to have time for family activities. Teaching values and helping children make good decisions requires communication.
Although some kids are energized when their schedule is full, many children need time to relax. Make sure you and your child reevaluate the activity load at the end of every season.
There are many different activities and levels of participation. If finances are tight, encourage your child to participate in activities that do not require out of town travel.
In short, encourage your child to explore new things, but don’t let your dreams of grandeur create a pressure filled environment or financial strains on your family.