Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Is Your Child "Going Pro" in Sixth Grade?

   Along with transferring your passion for a sport onto your child, another mistake is to begin planning for your young star’s inevitable college scholarship and trip to the professional ranks based on youth sports success.

As mentioned elsewhere on this blog, your child will experience a number of physical changes through his or her high school years. Even when the genes are good, there is no guarantee of future success. Other “intangible” factors associated with your child’s disposition and personality will likely emerge. Your child’s interests will also change over time.

The bottom line is that middle school heroes are as likely to become intramural stars as they are high school starters.

Is This Ultimately Your Child's Best Sport?

Even when a child shows exceptional talent in one sport at a young age, they may later excel in a different sport. I coached one 5th grade basketball player who showed excellent skills, an aggressive attitude, and seemed to have a natural aptitude for the game. I have little doubt that he would have enjoyed success playing competitive basketball at higher levels.

But by the time he reached high school, the boy had instead found his calling as a soccer player. He went on to enjoy an outstanding college career (winning All-American honors).

Not So Fast on That Athletic Scholarship

To expect that your young star is one step away from a college athletic scholarship is unrealistic. With the exception of elite athletes, scholarships are much more often based on financial need and academics than on athletic prowess.

Absolutely let your child enjoy their dreams of glory, fantastical as they may be. On occasion, those dreams do become reality. But keep yourself to the job of providing opportunities for their genius (if it’s there) to naturally emerge.

Multiple Sports

Instead of focusing on your child’s success in one sport, give your son or daughter the chance to play different sports. Especially at younger ages, give your child a taste of multiple sports. They will enjoy meeting new friends, experience crossover benefits from one sport to another, avoid overuse injuries and burnout, and more likely find the sport that best suits their athletic talent and nature as they mature.

In the case of that 5th grader I mentioned above, I ran into him a few years back. He made a point of introducing himself to me. Despite his success in soccer, he obviously still remembered that long ago YMCA basketball experience. I also suspect that a few of the skills he learned in basketball helped him succeed as he began to play competitive soccer. All of his sports experiences helped mold him into the excellent soccer player he became.

Always maintain a balanced, realistic perspective regarding your child’s success in youth sports. Don't buy the fools gold that is early success in one sport. Provide your child with the opportunity to play multiple sports and build the base of experiences that will benefit him or her later on.

Copyright © 2013 Jeffrey S. Rhoads. All Rights Reserved

If you enjoyed this article, you may like my book:
The Joy of Youth Sports: Creating the best youth sports experience for your child (Amazon $8.95)

(Kindle Edition $2.99)

Copyright 2009-2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads; All Rights Reserved


Wendy LeBolt said...

Hey Jeff,
We continue to be on the same page - literally :) You might enjoy this post http://fit2finish.com/how-much-does-a-soccer-scholarship-cost/
on this topic. Unrealistic and unstated expectations and the lure of dollars seem to fuel this downward spiral.
It's a tough one. Parents see this as the ticket for their child to "make it." I am always concerned about what the environment is "making" of our kids and our families along the way.

Jeffrey Rhoads [Inside Youth Sports] said...

Hi Wendi. I read your article a few months ago. It's an excellent look at the realities of college, scholarships, and the money sometimes invested by parents in pursuing opportunity for their child.

Your daughter's soccer journey is a nice example of how a child's attitude toward sports evolves as they mature and face more competitive environments. As a parent, you point out the pros and cons of your "investment." A waste of money or one that paid the dividend of skills learned that translated to some other setting (law school and academics)?

And here are a few related questions that parents should consider. When a daughter inevitably quits organized basketball or soccer, will she ever enjoy picking up a ball again? Will the daughter have the desire and physical skills to possibly enjoy some other sport as an adult? To my mind, more reason to emphasize a balanced sports experience for most kids.

Jodi Murphy said...

I don't think there is anything wrong with dreaming about your child becoming a star college athlete. Where parents run into trouble is when they put undo amounts of pressure on their kids to excel at such an early age that by the time their player reaches high school they are burnt out or injured. So much can happen between the time your child shows natural ability and when it's time to really consider college sports that you can't possibly plan for everything.

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