Did you read the article about the eighth-grader who is 6 feet tall, weighs 200 pounds, and has scholarship offers from Florida State, Miami, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina and Kentucky — in two different sports? I can understand the colleges wanting to put a claim on Lebron James’ kid, but this is nuts.
I’m not going to be naïve and ask when a kid can just be a kid — but eighth grade, really? It feels like this is all anyone ever talks about any more — whose kid got offers from which school, blah blah blah.
I get it. It’s practically impossible not to get sucked into the “elite, competitive, travel and club” sports mania with our kids. And let’s face it; everyone with kids in competitive sports is acutely focused on keeping up with what all the other kids are doing to stay on top. I’m just as guilty as the next guy. If I hear about someone who has his or her son at a speed and agility training facility, I ask my husband whether we need to look into that. So I decided to call my good friend and go-to sports confidante, whom I have great respect for. She is raising three very talented and humble boys with strong values.
I asked her, “What is your mantra with regard to club sports, and how do you keep your boys from burning out”? The amazing part of her answer, which took me about 30 minutes to comprehend, is that she never answered my question directly, because she doesn’t have a specific mantra with regard to sports.
In other words, her family doesn’t focus on what school they should be targeting for their boys and how to go about making that dream happen; they want to raise three good young men. She and her husband simply want to be proud when their kids walk out the door. Keeping the goal in mind, that drives all of their decisions. I can attest to this because every time I’ve called her for sports advice, her answers reflect core values more than they relate to my specific issue. Sometimes it drives me crazy, but she’s always right.
As for a list of values they teach their boys, here are just a few: Always be humble and don’t showboat; be respectful to your coaches and to your teammates; be a good teammate and grow into a leader; show your talent with skills, not your flash (cleats and clothes); earn respect; put in the work; and be unselfish on the field or court. This is how they were both raised and how they are raising their boys.
I think that so many of us miss the big picture because we want to make sports perfect for our kids. She calls that the “entitled bubble,” and that’s scary, because that’s not the real world, especially for our kids growing up here in Southern California. The weather is always perfect and we don’t have to worry about seasonal sports because kids can be outside all year long. My husband visited his sister in Connecticut recently, and her daughters were practicing in a full-on downpour.
While I used sports because that’s my world, this conversation can be related to whatever your child is focused on. This could include school, art, drama, music, or whatever they are passionate about. If you have God-given talent, and you want to do well, you need to put in the effort to be on top. Personal trainers and tutors can only take you so far.
And the last thing my friend emphasized to me is that you want your child to have other interests. Hopefully, they will connect with a certain teacher, or subject, because you never want to put all your eggs into one basket, in case life doesn’t turn out the way you had planned.
Let kids be kids. If you want them to condition, have them run around outside, play with a sibling, jump on a trampoline, or climb a tree. With all the pressure and responsibilities they have, at least let the conditioning be natural!
This is one of the best conversations I’ve had in a long time, because sports consumes my life and sometimes I do question my sanity. Especially when I read about eighth-graders getting offers from more than one college. I hope this helps you as much as it helped me!
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