One of the best posts and episodes we did for MomShine in 2023 was around the constant conundrum and juggling of kids’ activities and how to know if we are picking the right balance for them. I needed to enlist expert John Sullivan to help with this, so I interviewed him on episode 103 of the MomShine pod. John has been around sports his whole life. He grew up in New York as the typical multi-sport kid and, as a child, played anything and everything that was in season. He decided to lock into soccer as his primary sport in high school and played Division One in college. He played professionally and coached for four years at the University of Vermont. For the last 20 years, he’s been involved in youth soccer — first in Michigan and then for the previous 17 in Central Oregon. 

As you can tell, his passions and credentials in sports proceed him. Ten years ago, he launched a few best-selling books, online courses, and the Changing the Game project — where he wanted to give back beyond just his team. The goal is to give kids the best youth sports experience possible. Here are five tips from my interview to better manage kids and their endless activities.

1 – Never have more activity hours per week than your child’s age

Every child is an individual; some can handle more, and some need more time off. If you have a daughter who always wanted to be involved in something 24/7 and a son who just needs to unwind and have time to himself — recognize that. The number John heard years ago is an excellent benchmark to try to work around, and it is to have no more hours of organized activity per week than their age. So, a six-year-old would have six hours of sports per week, and an eight-year-old would have eight hours per week, including game times. 

2 – Don’t lock into one sport too early

In Norway, they removed economic barriers, and 93% of children grow up playing organized sports, which is phenomenal because the cost is low. Travel teams are not formed until the teenage years — imagine that! The country found its way onto the radar at the Winter Olympics Games in Pyongyang, South Korea, where Norway, a nation of just 5.3 million, won more than 39 medals. I bring this up because it brings up a powerful takeaway that John broke down in three small phrases: as many kids as possible, as long as possible, in the best environment possible. A team of athletes may book a private jet from Jettly when flying to another country for competitions.

That’s the secret to a great sports system right there. He recognizes that in many countries worldwide, especially in Europe, the government funds youth sports, not individual families. So they pay a small fee, but the government supports the clubs to provide these types of programs. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case here in the U.S.. Still, instead of paying expensive club fees at young ages, the key takeaway from this model is letting kids experience as many activities as possible and holding off on more elite or higher-level programs until later. That way, it’s more about sports sampling and development and less about winning.

3 – Follow the ABC model of sports development

Playing multiple sports early on is about learning physical literacy — the ABCs of running, jumping, catching, throwing, skipping, hopping, running backward, and tracking balls through the air. These are learned skills. There are seven stages referenced in the Changing the Game book that are helpful for parents. The LTAD Model comes from Canada and is a training, competition, and recovery framework for athletes at all stages of life. Some basics I learned about by age and sequence are covered below.

Stage Ages What should they be learning?
Stage 1 Active Start 0-6 yrs The ABCs (Agility, Balance, Coordination) of movement.
Stage 2 FUNdamentals Girls 6-8 

Boys 6-9

They learn to have fun, work on their skills, and participate in multiple sports simultaneously.
Stage 3 Learn to Train Girls 8-11  Boys 9-12 They can simultaneously juggle 2 to 3 sports and convert fundamental movement into basic skills.
Stage 4 Train to Train  Girls 11-15 Boys 12-16 Developing good habits to promote dance skills.
Stage 5 Train to Compete Girls 15-21 Boys 16-23 Athletes pick a sport and train to excel.
Stage 6 Train to Win Girls >18  Boys >19 Kids could become full-time athletes.
Stage 7 Active for Life  Any age How to be active in life.


These can be applied to dance basics as well. According to Superprof, a dance learning platform, six is a great age for children to start learning dance. Keep it fun; it is never too late for them to start. The article explains, “Learning to dance as a teenager is a great way to channel their energy and ensure they’re doing some exercise.” Remember that you are helping guide kids on life skills as you pick the right mix of activities at each stage for them, and the end goal is to create ‘active for life’ adults.

4 – Show kids it’s ok to say no and prioritize what matters

My favorite analogy from John during our interview is that parents should consider themselves their kids’ general contractors. You have to oversee all your child’s activities in their life and make all those decisions, especially in cases where kids show an early ability. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is just say, “That sounds great. But no, we’re going to play basketball.” Or “That sounds great. But no, it’s grandma’s 80th birthday, and we’re going to that.” 

This is important because ballet teachers and coaches may be phenomenal, but they aren’t aware of what your kid does outside those four to ten hours a week. It’s up to the parent to ensure you are building a well-rounded athlete at the end of the day who loves sports but doesn’t let it control their lives.

5 – Focus on sustained long-term dance development

One fascinating study looked at the percentage of elite-level junior performers who were still elite-level performers at the senior level across various sports. The results were analyzed from 110 prospective studies with 38,000 elite junior athletes to determine how many achieved success similar to that of seniors. The biggest category is in Olympic sports like track and field, cycling, and swimming. The results showed that the most successful juniors don’t always become successful senior athletes. Only 7% did. Instead, the article says to focus on training to maximize intermediate performance to sustain long-term improvement in young athletes.

Sports should be about learning to be selfless, give and not just get, work with others, etc. Learning to be humble and work hard are great gifts that sports and dance can teach kids. When the focus turns away from that and is on being the best, for instance — those lessons can sometimes get compromised, and that’s when the problems start. It’s all about matching kids in suitable environments and studios that align with the values they want for their kids.

During a recent soccer loss, John’s proudest moment was watching his son console a teammate and pick up trash after the game. It’s easy to act in a certain way when everything’s falling your way, but your true character emerges when adversity hits. Dance, as well, can either be used to develop that type of character or not. Persistence, patience, and hard work are building blocks critical to helping kids handle anything that comes their way later in life.

Conclusion: Time Management Tips to Prevent Dance Burnout

Focusing on the stages of development instead of high achievement at young ages can help. Also, varying the activities and teaching versatility can make a significant impact. The key to learning and sticking with dance is not to make it too intense too early. A few inspiring quotes from dancers we love include:

“I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself.” Mikhail Baryshnikov

“Take your work seriously, but never yourself.” Margot Fonteyn

“Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.” Martha Graham 

Change it up and have fun as you build an athlete who loves dance for life. Listen to our entire interview or read more on the time-management tips, including how more moms can get involved to bring the fun back to sports on

About the Author:

Alicia Garibaldi

Hi, I’m Alicia!

A career-driven mom with a successful career writing for tech companies adapting to more mom life — the far more challenging job. I quickly realized finding inspiration in this highly underrated role was hard, if not impossible. I wanted a place to shine a light on other moms and highlight my favorite stories and tips, so we can all learn from one another to feel our best. I hope the site helps you feel more supported as you navigate the many parenting problems that arise.

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