Emergency physician and author Louis M. Profeta is ready to bet that your child’s dream (or worse, your dream as a parent) won’t come true:
I don’t care if your eight year old can throw a baseball through six inches of plywood. He is not going to the pros. I don’t care if your twelve-year-old scored seven touchdowns last week in Pop Warner. He is not going to the pros. I don’t care if your sixteen -year-old made first team all-state in basketball. He is not playing in the pros. I don’t care if your freshman in college is a varsity scratch golfer, averaging two under par. He isn’t playing in the pros. Now tell me again how good he is. I’ll lay you two to one odds right now – and I don’t even know your kid, I have never even see them play – but I’ll put up my pension that your kid is not playing in the pros. It is simply an odds thing. There are far too many variables working against your child. Injury, burnout, others who are better – these things are just a fraction of the barriers preventing your child from becoming “the one.”
Dr. Profeta uses some real-life emergency room encounters to illustrate how crazy parents can be about their children’s sports participation:
When I inform you as a parent that your child has just ruptured their ACL ligament or Achilles tendon, if the next question out of your mouth is, “How long until he or she will be able to play?” you have a serious problem.
Here’s another vivid example:
If your child comes in with a blood alcohol level of .250 after wrecking your Lexus and you ask if I can hurry up and get them out of the ER before the police arrive so as not to run the risk of her getting kicked off the swim team, YOU need to be put in jail.
It’s an interesting rant from Dr. Profeta, but one, I think, that’s a bit over the top. Most parents want their children to participate in team sports to be part of something positive physically and socially. Kids don’t need to be the most gifted athletes to find enjoyment and satisfaction as part of a sports team. And whether they play team sports or participate in individual athletic events, kids are pretty good at knowing when their peers with more talent have passed them up — when it’s time to find another hobby.
Most kids who participate in organized sports actually do want to be there and play. They enjoy the competition, of course, but they also enjoy the before and after events with their teammates and friends: waiting out a rain delay together, stopping for a post-victory ice cream cone together, traveling to another town, or another state or country, to play in a travel game together (and swimming in the hotel pool together!). Having an adult mentor (coach or coaches, but also other parents as well) should be a positive and lasting influence for our children as they mature and confront the successes and disappointments of grown-up life.
Most kids and their parents (and most coaches, too) know they’re not going to the pros. Maybe there are one or two superstars on the team who harbor that dream of a college scholarship or even making the majors. What’s wrong with a child dreaming a little? Part of growing up is learning how to deal with broken dreams and accepting that expectations were perhaps unrealistic. On the flip side, all college stars and professional athletes were kids once, and they all shared dreams of glory when they were young: at a mini-mites hockey clinic, or coach-pitch baseball game, or youth football practice, or a recreational basketball league game, or on a special evening golfing a few holes with a grandfather…
I’m happy to say that I have, as a pediatrician, had the privilege of caring for many young athletes who had, or are having now, successful college and professional careers. Sure, some parents live vicariously through their children’s activities. Some parents push their kids too hard or have unrealistic expectations for their success. Like Dr. Profeta, most people remember these obnoxious parents and can recount colorful — and terrible — stories about how they shamed their son for missing an empty net or humiliated a young daughter for missing a lay-up. But Dr. Profeta is guilty of painting parents with too broad a brush. Most kids are good kids. Most parents are good parents. Parents, coaches, doctors — we remember the jerks so well because they are so uncommon (even though they can really ruin your day, can’t they?).