If your child has an inclination for sports, you might be like many parents who fantasize about helping them pursue becoming a professional athlete. This could include dance, football, tennis, horse showing, baseball, gymnastics, soccer or any number of other physical, competitive pursuits.
I am writing this article to give these parents general advice on things to consider. I am doing this because we, as a family, are pursuing this kind of goal. It is fun, but also expensive and a huge amount of time and sacrifice. Here is what you need to know.
High School sports are fun. But being top dog in a sport in your high school is not a sign your child can go pro in a sport. In fact, many players who are serious about their sports do not play high school because the time spent with the high school team takes away from more serious training. My oldest daughter, for example, was a very good high school tennis player but when she tried to compete in more serious tournaments, she quickly realized younger players were much better than her. She did not want to go pro anyway, but as a parent, we thought she was hot stuff till we saw what real competition looks like. Don’t get too excited to early.
Second, remember coaches are there to motivate you, earn a living and try to get the best out of the player they can. This might result in stroking a parent’s ego a bit on how good a kid is.
Next, have a long term goal, not a short term goal. Winning is not everything. Proper training and physical fitness appropriate for the age along with good technique is more important than winning at a young age. Being a serious tennis family with our youngest means we get to see parents freaking out all the time because their kid loses or has an off day. Guess what. Every weekend is another chance to get out there and get better. But negativity will hurt that long term performance.
This we have seen lead to high stress in kids as well as parents getting divorced. If you cannot deal with the stress that comes with this level of constant training and competition you may be better off not taking it so seriously.
Also, you should consider money. Most sports are very cheap to play casually. Take tennis for example. Playing on a public court with 3 week old balls is a very cheap way to have fun and stay fit. However, if you are serious about it, you are going to have 3 or more racquets that are $200ish and have them restrung each month at $35 a pop plus indoor memberships and multiple lessons per week plus a gym membership. Then you are going to be travelling around your local area and if you are lucky, you will be travelling nationally competing in bigger tournaments and working with specialists. In the Summer months you might spend $600 per month and Winter closer to $1,000 per month at least. If you look at the serious Tennis academies in Florida, they are $60,000 per year in many cases.
So that $25 Walmart tennis racquet and old can of balls playing in the park can quickly become a very expensive proposition. And in case you are wondering, no you cannot become great without some serious money and time.
Of course, there are exceptions when your child is a total freak of nature athlete. But even then you cannot just pick up a sport in an afternoon. Strategy and coordination must be learned.
These are just some of the issues you need to think about as a parent of a talented youth athlete. I am not telling you not to pursue it. I am saying you need to be realistic about chances and also about your ability to provide the resources to be successful. Good luck.