My daughter can’t get enough volleyball. She talks about playing day and night, and seems to have developed most of her friendships through the sport. She even talks about playing collegiate volleyball at LSU someday. The kicker? She’s only 9 years old. Although I don’t want to spoil her dreams, I also don’t want to become one of “those parents”; the ones who push their children farther than they are ready to go. Is this too early to begin thinking about a sports career?
– 9-year-old pro
Dear 9-Year-Old Pro,
Parenting is a tough balance; learning when to encourage their dreams and when to help them face reality can be difficult. Especially when it comes to the “long odds” dreams like becoming a professional athlete, singer, or actor.
Likewise, I trust that none of us want to be the overbearing parent that forces their child into a career that they aren’t ready for, or don’t really feel invested in. In your case, I already believe that you will never be one of “those parents” because you are already said the magic word: push.
Should you push your children into becoming athletes? Never.
Why? Because pushing always meets resistance, and resistance sets up conflict, and the conflict then sours the relationship. Either between you and your athlete, or your athlete and the sport.
Rather, if you really want to help your budding athlete get as far as they can go, let’s think about pulling them into the next opportunity for development. Finding the right coach, camp, or training program for next season is something that you can be doing while she is focused on this season. You can remove barriers before she encounters them.
If she is truly destined for a sports career, your efforts in finding the best opportunities for her will pay off quickly. She will be happy continuing on the path, her skills will develop rapidly, and she will be grateful for your support. If she isn’t destined for a career, you will soon know it. At some point, she will decide not to take the next opportunity you have found for her. Either way, getting out ahead of her is the best support you can provide.
Is there times that you should push on your athlete? Of course. But the focus of pushing should be upon values: hard work, sportsmanship, humility – not on the development of her sports career.
But whether she makes LSU’s starting roster or not, the greatest support you can give your young athlete is providing her the best opportunities for growth.
– Coach Grant