Hope Elisabeth Clayton, Staff Writer

A topic that I have heard a lot of controversy on is whether or not youth sports are becoming too intense and too competitive. I grew up in a sports centered home, so I was able to be around a wide range of competitive atmospheres. Some people, such as myself, really enjoy and prefere playing very competitively, whereas others like to do it more for just the fun of it. It is all just about personal preference.

I grew up playing softball for ten years, and it was my favorite thing about my childhood. I started out at the recreational level, where it was more about just having fun. That worked for me for a while, but eventually, I wanted more. Therefore, I started playing for select teams. These teams had coaches who would hand pick their players, and then they would take their teams and travel to play in various tournaments. Playing at this level takes a lot of hard work and dedication, and it is not meant for everyone. I would typically have two or three group practices per week, each lasting around two hours. On Monday-Friday I would spend at least an hour at home practicing pitching, and another half hour or so practicing hitting. Most Saturdays were spent at a tournament, and typically we would have to travel a good ways to get there, sometimes up to three hours away. On Sundays, I would have pitching lessons. Oh, did I mention I started this all at nine years old? A lot of people told my parents and me that it was too much for me, but it was something I loved and had a lot of passion for. Looking back on it, I understand why people would say that, but at the end of the day, I do not regret a single moment of it.

If you are not as into playing so competitively, then there are other options. You can always play at a recreational level. There are typically places locally to sign up. I have enjoyed playing at different levels and meeting new people. I think one of the most amazing things about playing sports is the friendships you make with the people you meet. Even though my youth was spent in an intense, sports centered environment, it was an amazing time in my life. I made friendships that I still have today that I would not have made otherwise. All in all, I had the time of my life, and I would not trade it for anything.