Yes, I am a Mom, a “Sports Mom” to be exact, which means I have numerous balls throughout my home, my yard and my car. Soccer balls, baseballs, footballs, basketballs, and most recently, lacrosse balls. I feel like Bubba and his shrimp from Forrest Gump!
By the way, interesting that we are called Sport’s Moms, don’t you think? Sports becoming the possessive entity.
Tackling the topic of youth sports in my community is much akin to talking about politics or religion. I wish I could insert that cringe face emoji at this moment! In our community, it has become a religion. You pay homage to it every weekend and most days during the week. I am not sure when the sports craze momentum started, but our family is definitely riding the waves.
I cannot even pretend to lie, I was swept up by it. Two years ago, when my son was eight, he turned to me with affection and pride in his eyes and said,
“Mom, when I make it to the NFL, I am going to buy you diamond earrings.”
Then, he proceeded to buy me fake diamond earrings for Christmas that same year. Did I dream of the day he would be a grown man and buy me real ones, of course! Did I think it was possible, yes! After all, he and my daughter are great little athletes, whose to say?
Before I go any further, I would like to preface this blog: My intention is never to be a dream crusher for anyone, never mind my own flesh and blood. However, the intensity of youth sports warrants at least once allowing an objective stance.
One article I read on this topic, simply stated parents were “delusional.” This caused me due pause. This is my attempt to find the truth to this proposed epidemic of delusion. Stay with me till the end my friend!
Many families, including my own, have been pacified my accepting that at the least their student athlete could get a scholarship to college. OK, they may not make it big time but the devotion to their sport will pay off financially in this way. For me, this has justified a lot of the concerns I have had in the past. It was my security blanket, a Sport’s Mom raison d’etre. OK, it is all fair in love and basketball. Game on.
What concerns have I had? Enough. My perspective was changed this past year. I read an article in a Scholastic magazine that discussed the relatively recent rise of overuse injuries in young athletes. This concerns me as it has the potential of causing long term pain or limited use of a part of the body. Although I am aware of the contributing factors to this and the call for diversity within youth sports, there is still inconsistencies.
This article also introduced me to a disturbing reality that has developed in youth sports. With this tidal wave of attention to youth sports and parents who believe their child is the “next professional player” (I was one so I am not judging here!), others have capitalized for profit on this dynamic whether they realize it or not. It has become a booming business.
My children have played sports with an intensity for some time now. I have been to enough games to witness in myself and in others some undesirable behaviors.
Most recently, at a championship baseball game, I screeched in panic for my son to “get up” after he fell diving for a ball. I became quickly ashamed and shut down, not particularly enjoying the rest of the game. My reaction was not at all to do with how he played, but how I had allowed myself to act. I can only speak for myself, but the belief that one play, one game is the end all be all is flawed. Most parents would deny this, but actions speak louder than words.
For most, witnessing the passion in your child’s eye, the focus and the determination, is enough to throw all caution to the wind. I experience that passion regularly through my young athletes and it can be intoxicating.
But, the schedules, the sacrifices, the demands on all facets of their being, the pressure to excel, the expectations: all factors a young athlete has to manage even before the game starts. Can you imagine if your job everyday was under that sort of microscope? Most adults would snap. But, these athletes would not be still playing unless they were incredibly resilient, which they are! Amen for that.
A definite advantage to dedicating a life to excelling in a sport is nurturing passion and resiliency. Awesome. A disadvantage I propose is parental or another involved caregiver’s expectations. Why else would we be at times resorted to turning crimson, sweating and yelling at young players despite ourselves?
Statistically, of the 541,054 high school basketball players, 3.4% will play in college and a mere 1.2% will be drafted into the NBA.
Of the 1,093,234 high school football payers, 6.5% will play in college and only 1.6% will be drafted into the NFL. And, I have not even mentioned concussions.
Of the 433,344 women’s high school basketball players, 3.8% will play in college and a measly 0.9% will be drafted into the WNBA.
Of these college athletes, 1-2% will receive an athletic scholarship and often times these are far less than anticipated. Ok, the numbers don’t lie.
So, what am I proposing? It is so incredibly simple! Let our young athletes have fun playing a game. Do not link any sport, any game, any play to some perceived success in the future. Do not burden them or their game with our lofty expectations.
Let them live and play with passion, be attentive by providing them the resources they seek, listen to them just as much as you expect them to listen to you, be informed and then…let go.
Relish in their accomplishments and be emotionally present when they struggle. Allow them to enjoy honing their natural abilities without pairing a trophy or a dollar sign to it. After all, the ball is most definitely in their court not ours. Let it be.