Last week’s article, All Parents Deserve A Gold Medal, about the sacrifices Olympic moms make brought in some emotional responses. How can you not have an emotional response? It’s a tearjerker to be sure. But one friend had a different reaction to the piece. “Wow. Makes me feel guilty for not putting my daughter into pre-comp gymnastics. Sniff,” she wrote.
We always want to give our kids the best, and we think they need the best to reach their potential. But do they? Isn’t passion and natural talent enough? Do we really need to sculpt our kids’ careers before they’re even sure what they want to do?
Richard Williams admits he planned his daughters’ domination of tennis 2 years before Venus Williams (left) was even born. He moved his family to Compton to give his family an edge on the competition. Still, despite designing Venus and Serena’s championship careers, Williams concedes, “a champion has [certain] qualities, and it’s not something you can teach.”
To try and duplicate the success Williams had with his kids, some parents are spending $11, 000 a year on Little League, and think it’s normal.
The New York Times added up the cost of equipment and the trend to personal coaching and year round leagues as parents push to get their kids to the pros.
Fran Dicari, the host of the Web site StatsDad.com, said he spent $11,704 on fees, equipment and travel expenses for two children last year, with baseball accounting for about a third of it. “Looking back on it, you would not think that we were sane people,” said Dicari, who lives in the Cincinnati area. “But in the circle we were in, we were normal.” [NYT]
The parents are either trying to keep with the Joneses, or they see athletics as a possible career path for their kids. After all, it worked for the Williams sisters, so it should be good for my kids — right? Wrong.
Our job isn’t to get our kids into the big leagues, on Olympic podiums, or World Records for every hobby they pick up. Ours is to encourage a love of participation.
AGAINST ALL ODDS
If you had to pick a sport for a kid born in Okene, Nigeria, to make the big leagues in, you would probably go with football or basketball, not hockey. But at the beginning of April, Akim Aliu made his NHL debut and scored two goals in his second game. As if the chance of a Nigerian making it to the NHL wasn’t enough of a long shot, consider that Akim didn’t even learn how to skate until he was 12.
His first pair of skates were bought at a garage sale, and he quickly developed a natural love and talent for the sport. Four years after first tying on skates, he was drafted to the Ontario Hockey League. Then, just 5 years after learning the game, he was ranked as one of the top 5 prospects for the NHL entry draft.
In an era of redshirting kids so they can be the biggest on the team the following year, and paying for off-season trainers and camps for our kids, sometimes raw passion is enough.
My friend’s 6-year-old was invited to play in a spring hockey league after his regular league finished. She was flattered because the league was with kids a year older. The schedule was busy, and the league was expensive. They didn’t know if they could afford it. “Skip it,” I said. “He’s 6!” Eventually, she did.
My son loves gymnastics, and at the age of 4, our club was holding tryouts for the competitive stream. Yes, at age 4 they’re streamlining kids for the Olympics. The cost was hundreds of dollars, so we didn’t do it. Our kid loves gymnastics, and we decided to let him love it rather than treating it like a job, especially for a 4 year old.
We are over-programming our kids with the hopes that the talent lottery will come up with their numbers and they’ll make it to the show. Chances are they won’t.
Bubba Watson won The Masters this year. Unlike Tiger Woods who was, seemingly, groomed to be a golfer before he could even talk, Bubba has never taken a golf lesson in his life.
Pull back the reins on your kids, let them follow their heart. If they’re good enough, they’ll be good enough.
Get more DadCAMP on Kid Scoop:
Fathers, Sons, and Baseball
9 Things To Know Before You Take Your Kids To Pro Sports Event
All Parents Deserve A Gold Medal (*warning* will make you cry)