By Jim Price
How far can your son or daughter go playing ball? High school team? College scholarship? Further? The answer depends on two factors: DNA and love of the sport. DNA determines physical attributes and how much one gets out of training. The true variable is how much he enjoys the game. If a child loves to play, they want to play all the time. They want to practice. They want to get instruction. Every minute spent involved in that sport is fun. And, that leads to growth, development and the opportunity to maximize genetic strengths.
If you know a young player who seems to have talent above their peers, keep an eye as the years go on. Without a love for the game, that player will inevitably start to fall back towards the pack or even quit the game entirely before reaching his full potential.
According to Tom Farrey, director of the Sports and Society Program at the Aspen Institute and author of Game On; The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children, “for the vast majority of (professional) athletes, it was not about chasing the college scholarship or becoming a pro; they were just enjoying the games and falling in love with sports.” In other words, it’s the kids who grow up loving the sport, not the ones being driven to succeed in it, who do actually succeed.
“He goes to practices and games.”
“She seems to enjoy it.”
“His friends play.”
“She’s good at it.”
All of those statements are positives. However, none demonstrate a love for the sport. In my 20+ years of being involved in youth sports, I have seen a fair amount of kids who quit playing ball — and their parents never saw it coming.
1. She often talks about playing and not just after you have started the conversation (in fact, resist the temptation to start the conversation all the time).
2. He asks questions about ballgames he has watched or played in, strategies, reasons why a player did something a certain way.
3. He re-lives the games after they’re over, not beating himself up about mistakes, but excitedly talking about various moments that might not even have involved him. Listen in on the conversations he has with his friends.
4. Once there is downtime or the season ends, she can’t wait for it to start up again.
5. He wants to learn more and improve.
In short, you have to listen carefully for the clues. If you’re always the one pushing him to get dressed for the game, to get ready for practice, to go to his lesson, that should be a red flag. The enthusiasm should come from the player, not the parent.
You have to teach your child how to find the joy in the game. I found this list on a blog for USA Football and I believe it captures much of what I have advised parents through the years.