One question I am often asked is, When do I start specializing my kid in his/her sport?
I personally think that is a loaded question that has no set answer. Just as kids progress in school and start to show promise and gifts in certain areas, the same is true for sports. A separate questions needs to be addressed and that is, why should my kid specialize and choose one sport? What is your motivation for these questions? Is it your idea, thinking there is a possibility to get some college scholarship money for playing sports? Is it satisfying an unfulfilled dream of yours? Or is it a true confusion about what wave to ride as far as your child’s future?
First let me say that I once read that there was 10 times more money available with academic scholarships in the United States than athletics. I was and many people are shocked to hear this. Given that fact, does that change your head set a little bit going forward?
The second point, be VERY careful you are not trying to satisfy an abandoned dream of your own, and project that desire onto your child. Plain and simple nothing more to say
Now the meat of this debate, when should I leave behind the three sport athlete and specialize my child? Be realistic of your child’s abilities and remember they are children. Their approach is less time sensitive than yours. During baseball season they want to be pro baseball players, during football pro football players and so on. Respect that, children have a unique quality that dwindles as we age to appreciate the present and not, miss it. If as parents we could just enjoy the present our intuition will sharpen and the answers will be clear. If they are interested in all three seasons do it! If they start to not connect with the family favorite sport, don’t mourn the loss, be happy you had the past experiences with it and move on. Respect their boundaries because they will start to feel where they have great success and the answer will surface from the muck of life’s chaos.
I am not saying leave all the decision making to your child, but be considerate of their feelings, leave your hard headed opinions out of it, and let your child bloom.
Recently my oldest child who lives and breathes football and wrestling, and is a great strong athlete, decided he was not going to play ANY team sports this year as a High school JUNIOR!!! Are you joking??? My husband and I could not process this. He said I am feeling that my high school coaches are not making me a better athlete they are only regurgitating plays to me without reason or explanation and their off field training routines were severely lacking structure and information that he craved. Well, that was pretty insightful, how could we argue? He joined a gym, works with trainers, goes to a speed school and is improving his skills as an athlete, and will resume his structure next year when he repeats junior year and starts a boarding school. Totally breaks the mold that myself a dance minor in college and my husband an ex-professional baseball player, but he made sense and we respected his choice as long as he sticks to his plan.
Our minds are like parachutes and only work when they are open, so listen, hear and process before you answer. Let your kids explore their interests, while you keep them on track, their train may stop at a totally different station than yours but they all arrive at some point.
Next week we will talk about the other side of the coin and specializing too early in a sport and how it may be physically detrimental to your child.