Sports at 9 Years Old: Competition or Recreation?

I have so much angst on this subject one blog post might not cut it.  The dilemma at hand is where to place my eager young hockey player: the house or the travel team.  If finances restricted us, we wouldn’t have a choice. Although, I know of many “travel” families who really can’t afford travel hockey but would never consider the “house” program for their children.

For the uninitiated “house” is essentially recreational hockey. “Travel” is competitive hockey.  The difference in terms of ice time is roughly double: travel teams beginning around the age of 8 or 9 play about 4 hours/week on the ice.  They play out of town teams; house players tend to play each other in “scrimmages”.

One of the outcomes from having a child in a Travel sport as opposed to a recreational sport is the time commitment.  In our case, Travel hockey would have two evening practices (not a big deal) and two weekend games. The latter is THE big deal.  It means we, THE FAMILY, will not be able to ski together through the season.  Yes, we might get a day or two in together; but there’s no denying that TRAVEL hockey=LIMITED SKIING=LIMITED FAMILY TIME

My nine year old daughter, Olivia, loves to play hockey. She didn’t always. She got the bug when she was seven turning eight. Last year, she wanted to play on a “girls” only team. We looked around and the only age-appropriate team was in Burlington. It didn’t matter to Olivia that she knew no one; this team represented a great chance to play with the girls. It was a GREAT experience.  She had a former Olympic hockey player as one of her 4 coaches. They played teams who traveled to our rink.  It was sort of like “House Plus”; for this family it was perfect.

Now at the age of nine, my dear daughter still wants to play with the girls. She is now in a new school in this same district; one with just fourth & fifth graders…including some girls from the local hockey team.

Her message has been consistently clear: “I want to play with the girls”.  It’s not been “I want to play Travel” or “I want more ice time”.

The decision of which way to go has rested on we parents who try so hard to do the right thing by our children.  Socially, it seems if she’s to play with the girls, we should have her play with the girls from her own town & schools as opposed to driving her to the next town.

Last weekend, we took the family to a family skate event at the local arena, with the intent to get to know some of the other girls team members.  We didn’t really manage to do that. What we did do, was see Olivia at her absolute happiest and most relaxed: skating on the ice.

And so, We The Parents, are going to have Olivia play competitive hockey this year. There is no U-10 team so she’ll have to play with the U-12 girls team.  She is very pleased. I am still ambivalent.

My goal is to support her, protect her, but also to get out of her way; to let her be her.  I hope that when this season is behind me, I’ll feel like this was a good decision.

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