When my oldest daughter was born, I couldn’t wait until she was old enough to play sports. We started with soccer, signing her up when she was four and we were excited to see what she might like. She hated running and was only mildly interested in scoring goals, so after four years we gave in and realized soccer wasn’t her sport. We hadn’t given any thought to what might be the ideal sport for her—one that would play to her strengths, allow her to build some grit, learn teamwork, and one that she would love to play.
Then, a few years ago, a casual conversation with a friend opened my eyes. She and her husband had a plan for their kid’s athletics. They had researched information about body type, success rates, scholarships and even what the average GPA’s are for certain sports. These were new, but fascinating ideas to me. For someone who loves sports as much as I do, I was amazed that I hadn’t considered these things yet! Instead, I somehow thought my child would magically happen upon a sport, fall in love with it, maybe even excel at it and that would be that.
I had never even considered a plan. I overthink everything else my kids do. What school they attend, what they eat, what electives they take in school. Somehow this important part of their lives was pretty much ignored. Now looking back, it seems so…dumb.
As my friend pointed out, there are a lot of sports that could be great fit for my daughter that she might enjoy a lot more than soccer. But how would we know if she wasn’t ever exposed to them? We likely would have stumbled upon the mainstream sports, but what about the many other incredible ones we didn’t know anything about? My kids weren’t going to happen upon a lacrosse or a water polo pickup game in the neighborhood. I realized it was on our shoulders, as parents, to help them find a good fit.
My friend’s husband is a die hard soccer fan, but he didn’t think his son had the right build for soccer. So they researched and explored other options. They knew their plan might change or get altered based on their child’s likes and dislikes as he grew, but they also weren’t going to leave it up in the air. Today, he is an extremely successful water polo player, at a top club, and he loves his sport.
I am always telling my kids that if you don’t have a plan and can’t imagine it, then it won’t happen. So how did I expect that I could help my daughters succeed in sports without any sort of plan?
It doesn’t just end once your child decides on a sport. You need to work backwards by first asking…What is the end goal? For some, it will be just fun and in that case, there doesn’t need to be much planning. For others, with kids that might want to play in high school or even college, then start there and work back. What club or school is best suited to their sport? Some middle schools have clubs that feed into high schools. Find one that has a quality program in your sport or a great coach and again, work backwards. Another way to plan ahead is to look into a good com
plimentary second sport. Water polo for example has a lot of underwater wrestling involved, so Jiu Jitsu is a great addition to a training program for a water polo player. Lots of soccer players run track for speed training, and basketball and volleyball have a lot of similar vertical jumping that is good cross training. There are also sports the can help with court/field vision and reaction time. These are all points to consider when making a plan.
I really appreciate my friend for opening my eyes a few years back. If it wasn’t for our talk, my daughter may still be playing soccer and we’d both be wondering why it wasn’t much fun. Instead I have an enthusiastic water polo player who is passionate about her sport!