Parents often imagine sports the way they experienced them as players. When I was a kid, the business was not as crazy as it is today…by a long shot (and I grew up in Southern Indiana where basketball came before church). Local sports teams were often left alone, and no one younger than 8th/9th grade was on anyone’s radar outside the area. There wasn’t even a radar.
As a coach of some very talented kids, I am starting to see how much manipulation and hi-jinx actually occurs behind the scenes. Nearly every game we play, or tournament we enter, an AAU coach or affiliate is approaching me about certain kids. These conversations are sales-heavy, and always focus on how much development and exposure a specific kid will get. The sales process starts with me as the current coach and confidante to the family. It then slowly evolves into an ask for a “warm transfer” to the parents, and ends in an all out full-court press (excuse the metaphor) for complete commitment and allegiance. Paid coaches with name recognition, uniforms, shoes, bags, and even trips to play are all part of the pitch.
Folks, I am talking about 5th graders here. Let that sink in for a second.
So there is a lot that we can do.
- Work hard to keep perspective. Your kids are not a commodity, and the percentage of scholarship athletes, much less professional athletes, is tiny.
- Kids in youth sports cannot handle the pressure that comes with pleasing an adult that is benefiting financially from that kids abilities, and shouldn’t be asked to.
- Keep clear boundaries for your kids regarding their chosen sports. For example, driving 50 miles one direction for practices, or borrowing money to go to major tournaments, send a clear message to kids that the world is now revolving around them and their abilities.
- Let them play multiple sports and change seasons.
- Let them choose non-traditional sports to play.
- As a parent, work hard to recognize that fear drives an amazing amount of your decisions, and talk with other parents for support.
#6 brings me to my last important learning in the next post…