Why It Sucks To Be The Parent Of A Good Athlete
I know how this sounds, but hear me out.
All three of my kids fall into this category. They aren’t bad at sports and they also aren’t in that special “elite” athlete category…yet. They are good athletes. I’m guessing that the majority of you may also be dealing with this issue. It’s called “potential.”
That’s right. A kid with “potential “offers an abundance of unique challenges because our “good athlete” path is so unclear.
I sometimes feel that it might be nice if one of my kids wasn’t sporty … obvious from an early age that they wouldn’t be competing for a spot on any high school, college or professional team. There are many more admirable things these kids will go on to accomplish. I’m certain it can be tough at times for the parents of the non-sporty kid to witness other moms and dads holding their breath when their child is at bat or put into the game at a crucial moment, but these parents can at least accept the facts and relax. And why not? Despite a few tough moments and some bumps and bruises both literally and figuratively, the path is clear and these parents don’t need to spend a lot of time, money or worry devoted to making decisions about their child’s future in sports. Their kids play for fun, exercise or because their parents understand the important life lessons they can gain through playing sports.
On the other end of the spectrum are the parents of elite or supremely gifted athletes. They also have a fairly clear path. These kids are also typically easy to spot early on. They are the ones who have been plucked out of the lineup since they were five. They’re the kids who are always on the travel teams, the all-star teams, the ODP squads, the junior national, etc., etc. They seem destined for a golden future – college level and beyond. Many who fall into this group have ended up on the best teams with the best coaches and the best training. The super-kid athletes seem like they were born to play sports. And they excel not at just one sport, but every one they decide to play. Seems like an easy enough job to parent them, although I’m sure they would have their own lists of gripes that might include the immense pressure these kids and parents probably feel.
Then there is the third group. My group and for the majority of you who are probably reading this right now … the “good” athletes. Our children aren’t superstars, they aren’t plucked from their team to join the super-teams, they’re not MVPs, but they are definitely good enough to compete and do well on their teams. And that is exactly why this ”potential” issue is so darn tough.
The possibility of greatness is hard to ignore – it seems to exist, or does it? And therein lies the struggle. It’s why we push so hard. “Potential” is dangling in front of our kids. Our children are strong competitors, love sports and could be elite athletes one day. Or not. They aren’t there yet, but could they be? Michael Jordan, arguably the best player to ever play the game of basketball, was cut from his varsity team as a sophomore; Carmelo Anthony was cut as a freshman in high school, and what about Lionel Messi, arguably the best soccer player in the world? He was sent packing from his junior team at age 11. Now these are gifted athletes, but what if they let those setbacks change their course, or if their parents allowed them to quit or didn’t push them to keep going by providing them with whatever support they needed? Hard to know for sure, but it’s possible their potential wouldn’t have been realized.
As parents, we feel we have a role in determining their success or at least helping it along. That’s why we do extra practices, sports camps in the summer to maximize “downtime,” and hire private trainers. We debate which team is the right fit for each kid, which coach is going to nurture the potential … or not. We keep hoping, wondering and working – doing everything in our power to give them the best chance at it. Because after all, it’s not a sure thing. Right now, it’s just potential.
*Update to this story – Since I first wrote this post, we have had a few ODP & US Team selections in our family. So maybe a little pushing and nudging along the way has helped the kids to begin climbing up the good athlete latter.