A push to play sports: The family traditionPosted: July 15, 2015
Here’s a take on sports parenting from a guy who is just getting into it. Nick Houser is a fairly new dad, and is examining all those family traditions and sports attitudes from the fresh, new eyes of a father to a little guy. As many parents have, Nick has reflected on his own experience as youth sports participant, and shares his thoughts here at The Trophy Mom.
By Nick Houser
I grew up pushed into sports. I think most people my age, boys especially, were pushed into sports. There was a mentality that we had to do something, so it was either sports or work.
Baseball was everything in our house.
My dad tried to play. When he couldn’t go pro as a player, he tried to go pro as an umpire. But he always played in an old man’s league as well. My brothers both played as long as they could, too. One gained a collegiate scholarship.
I still recall the day I decided to quit.
I told my mom first, hoping she’d be a buffer. She didn’t bite, and instead told me I still had to be the one to tell dad the bad news. I stalled as long as I could. When the phone call finally took place, I shook the whole time. He yelled the whole time. His boys weren’t supposed to quit baseball. Fact of the matter was, I liked soccer better. So sue me. (Years later, I’d find out he blessed us all with bad shoulders anyway.)
He drove me to tee ball tryouts. He never watched a soccer game.
Today you hear stories of parents pulling out all the stops. They pay for quarterback coaches at 12. They hire hitting instructors at 10. They’re working with pitching coaches before high school. They have personal trainers teaching their kids plyometric beach exercises before their muscles are even fully developed — always looking for the edge — whatever it takes to get their kid drafted.
But how much is too much?
I read somewhere (of COURSE I can’t find it now) that athletes who play a variety of sports are more athletic and have better skill-sets than athletes who excel in one sport only. Think of the Tony Gonzalez’s in the world who played college basketball and football.
This makes complete sense. It’s also smarter as a parent.
Why sink thousands and thousands of dollars for lessons in one sport for it to blow up in your face? Your kid could either not excel as expected or turn out to hate the sport all together. It’s wiser to encourage them to participate in multiple sports. The flexibility in one can train him/her to be better at another. The knowledge of this game gives him/her better insight into that game. Specializing is cool and all, but in most fields in life having a diverse breadth of knowledge gets you ahead quicker and easier. Now if s/he makes the decision to pursue specialization late in high school, OK, sure.
I think because I came from a generation that was pretty heavily pushed toward sports, it’s difficult for me to not want to do the same.
Sports are just so fun. And they provide such valuable lessons, such as teamwork and hard work, hand-eye coordination and problem solving, fine motor skill development and gross motor skill development/ Then again, you could get those lessons elsewhere, too.
He might decide he wants to be a gardener — something 100 percent different and unexpected. And I’d have to be OK with that.
If I wasn’t, then I’d be my father. And he’d resent me and the game for pushing him too hard to be something and play something he doesn’t want. That totally ruins the game.. and relationships.
My father-in-law says you just want your kid to be one step better than you. Of course I’d love that. I don’t see anything wrong with that statement at all. I’d teach him everything I know and I’ve already gifted (or cursed him with) my genes, so now he uses that as a base and moves up from there. Seems simple.
Sports is instilled in my mind. It’s ingrained into my blood, my soul, my life. Of course I want my son to play sports, no doubt about it. But being the father of an athlete is a new game I’ll have to learn. It’s a tricky balance. You have to find the line between encouraging, coaching and supporting without going overboard, pushing too much and too hard. You have to get in to it, without getting in to it. Your kid is playing. Their success is a reflection of you. But you’re not playing. Your behavior reflects on them. Teaching a sport is like learning to dance. Or so it sounds.
And in the end there’s always the possibility he’s interested in being that gardener.
Regardless, my job in the short-term is to not be this guy.
A first-time father of one, Nick Houser is a digital writer and editor. He currently contributes to Bleacher Report and Hardly Serious as well as his blog at Poppa Houser. You can follow him on Twitter for more fatherhood musings.