Dream Big Or Reality Check?

Tauna & Kirsten
In Ask Our Experts
By Tauna & Kirsten | September 23, 2018
My son wants to play college basketball and talks about top tier teams like UCLA, but he’s on the shorter side. He’s 12 years old and has typically made the all-star teams. My husband and I are both under 6 feet tall. Should we tell him to try another sport, or temper his goals with the harsh reality?
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Raising Kids to Compete and Win

Although height is a great advantage in basketball, who is to say your son won’t make it?  There have been many NBA players under 6’ including Hall of Famers and Slam Dunk winners. Hard work and commitment will help him achieve his goal better than being a lazy 6’6”. I feel you should never discourage a dream; if you shoot for a 10, you may get an 8; but if you shoot for an 8 you will most likely get a 6. Maybe he won’t make a D-1 college, but maybe he will. You as a parent can realistically see the hurdles he will have to overcome. Help him develop skills that will overcome his height disadvantage. A good three-point shooter can go anywhere and having a great vertical jump will make up for height. Support him in any way you can. Dream the Dream.

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Peak Performance Coach

The average height of a Division I basketball player in 2016-17 was 6’7’, (6’4” for the average American player and 6’8” for the average international player).www.scholarshipstats.com. That’s the A-V-E-R-A-G-E. This means, yes, of course, it’s going to be a very steep incline to get to the Division I level if he’s just over 6’ tall. That said, there are always outliers. And, you don’t want him to grow up regretting that he didn’t chase his dream. At 12 years old, boys are JUST starting to hit puberty. By the time he gets to high school, he may either be passed by athletically as well as physically or, if he’s a hard worker, has some talent and good coaching, he may adjust and develop his game accordingly.

3.9% of high school basketball players get to play at the D1 level,www.scholarshipstats.com. That said, let’s look at what else he is gaining by competing in something he loves. Is he learning how to be a good teammate? Is he learning how to come back from defeat? Is he learning leadership skills? Is he working on his game and trying to improve from his current level right now? All of these skills will help him learn about teamwork, grit, resilience and gratitude, which are key skills to develop to become a successful, well-adjusted adult. I would let the game come to him (or not) and when it’s time to pivot, he’ll know.

My 17-year-old, who will be a senior in high school this fall, was exactly like your son at 12 years old, except his dream school was Duke. He does happen to have tall parents, (my husband is 6’5” and I’m 5’11” and we were both college athletes), but a) he’s been a late bloomer and I don’t think he is done growing yet, and b) he’s realized that while he’s worked incredibly hard on his game, he may or may not be a D1 player. Only time will tell. He recently started speaking about the benefits of playing D3 basketball, where he can get a great education and basketball doesn’t have to be a full-time job. My husband and I are 100% on board. He’s started to talk about what he’d like to do AFTER college, which he realizes, most likely won’t involve basketball directly. We are supportive of whatever he ultimately chooses to pursue and have told him, that they are 100% his choices to make as he has to put in the work to become successful both in the classroom and on the court at the next level, which is a huge commitment.

At 12 years old, let your son compete for UCLA in March Madness (in his mind); there is zero harm. In supporting my son, I’ve come to realize that even if he doesn’t reach this one goal, he’s going to take all of his learnings and apply it to what’s next in his life and that is one of the biggest gifts of playing sports.


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