The most challenging job anyone has in life provides the highest of highs and lowest of lows: Parenthood.
So why do so many parents mess it up when it comes to their kids and athletics?
This is essentially the first week of high school athletics for the 2014-15 school year, and already I am hearing from coaches who are upset that some athletes in their schools have decided to give up additional sports to concentrate on one sport.
This is specialization—and it is one of the most troubling issues facing high school athletics today.
In fact, some parents are forcing their kids to specialize even before they reach high school.
This is a horrible mistake on several levels. But don’t just take my word for it. How about the word of Dr. James Andrews, a world-renowned surgeon who has been putting athletes back together for almost 40 years?
In an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Andrews said one of the reasons for the increase in kids’ injuries is specialization.
“Specialization leads to playing the sport year-round,” Andrews said. “That means not only an increase in risk factors for traumatic injuries, but a sky-high increase in overuse injuries. Almost half of sports injuries in adolescents stem from overuse.”
Going hand in hand with specialization is the other problem: Professionalism.
Parents believe their kids are so special they are destined to earn a college scholarship and go on to a brilliant professional career. That is why parents want their kids to pick a single sport and devote their entire being to that sport, sometimes even hiring personal trainers to make sure it happens.
“Professionalism is taking these kids at a young age and trying to work them as if they are pro athletes, in terms of year-round activity,” Andrews told the Plain Dealer. “A lot of these kids don’t have the ability to withstand that type of parental/coach pressure.”
Parents need to understand that although their kids are special to them, that won’t mean anything to college coaches whose livelihoods revolve around giving scholarships to athletes who can help them win.
They also need to fully comprehend the odds. According to an NCAA survey, only 6.5 percent of high school football players will play at an NCAA institution, and that includes Division II schools, which largely offer partial scholarships, and Division III schools, which do not offer athletic scholarships.
Taking it further, just 0.08 percent of high school football players will reach the NFL.
The percentages are similar in other sports — 0.03 percent of high school basketball players will play professional basketball, and not necessarily the NBA or WNBA.
Those odds are worse than what might be given in Las Vegas, but personal trainers and people who sell parents on this dream live by the credo that there is a sucker born every minute.
I know there are parents out there who will read this and agree that those other parents are crazy, certain I am not writing about them. But I am writing about everyone.
The sad reality for those parents who insist their kids specialize and train year-round is that eventually everything blows up in their face — when the kid gets injured or they learn the kid just isn’t talented enough and the kid and parents play the “if only” game for the rest of their lives.