Childhood dreams are funny things. As parents, we are torn between cheering our kids on, and reminding them of harsh realities because we don’t want to see them hurt or disappointed.
I mean, whose to say your child might not be another Tim Tebow or Bill Gates, or a scientist like the people who discovered lasik surgery or treatments for cancer?
How do we know if our child really has potential? How are we to know if his childhood dreams can actually become reality?
Today, I want to just focus on sports dreams because that’s where most of you are living. If your child has an athletic dream, just how far should you go to fuel his hopes?
I saw a recent interview on Fox news with an NFL Draft prospect who said he’d been dreaming of this opportunity since he was 5.
What if his parents had refused to fuel his childhood dream?
And you’ve seen the olympic athlete interviews where they talk about how their parents sacrificed so they could chase their dream-either moving to a new city or driving hours for their child to get proper training? What if those parents had decided it wasn’t worth it?
What’s the reality?
The reality is that only 0.2-0.5 % of high school athletes make it to the pros.
How much should you spend, how much should you sacrifice, to help your child be part of that small percentage? How do you know whether you should be fueling your child’s dreams or giving him a talk about the realities of life?
The birth of the dream
For many children, the dream begins when they are little. For my son, it began before he even went to school. He wanted to be the next Dan Marino. When our kids are small, we should let them dream as much as they want. Let them dream big, let them dream ridiculous things. Those dreams will motivate them to try and grow and stretch themselves.
Parents sometimes feel they need to force their children to face reality. I would encourage you not to crush their dreams; life has a way of re-shaping those dreams for your children without your help.
The growth of the dream
As your child grows up, the childhood dream may fade. My son reached a point in middle school/early high school when he knew he probably would not be the next Dan Marino. But he still wanted to play in college.
Without our interference, life was already re-shaping his dream.
When kids get to upper middle and high school, the dream-chasing can get costly. If your child wants to make the team, or get playing time or get noticed and ultimately make it to the college or pro level, he may feel the need for travel ball, skill lessons, skill camps, and a myriad of other wallet-draining demands.
And here is where you need to decide just how far you are willing to go to help your child chase that dream.
The dream test
To decide how far you should go, how much you should sacrifice or spend, ask yourself these important questions.
1. Does my child really have the drive or passion? It takes a lot of determination and hard work to make it to the college level in a sport, on any level, not just D-1, even to make the high school team.
My oldest daughter grew up playing softball and always said she wanted to play in college, so when she was a freshman in high school, we sat down with her and asked her one simple question: did she really want to play in college? And was she willing to work hard to make that happen? If we saw that she was doing her part to work hard, we would do all we could afford to help her achieve success.
I am happy to report that she played four years of D-3 college softball, and had a wonderful college experience.
But it was not because we forced her; it was she who put in the hours of catching and hitting practice to make it to the college level. It was her dream, and her passion helped it become reality.
2. Does my child have the skill? Here’s where many parents need a severe reality check. We all see our kids as great players–and sometimes we are seeing what we want to see, not what is real. This is when we need other eyes to help us see what is real and what is not.
My husband coached a young softball pitcher in high school whose mom was convinced she was headed for D-1 college level ball, D-2 at the least. But on the varsity level, she wasn’t cutting it. She got little pitching time because even though her pitching speed was decent, she didn’t have enough pitch variety and hitters found it very easy to get hits off her. On top of that, her batting was sporadic, and on top of that, she had poor over-arm throwing skills.
However, her mom was convinced she was headed for a stellar college career. The fact of the matter was, her mom was the ONLY one who thought that. No schools recruited her and other coaches saw her shortcomings as a varsity softball player.
If you are the only one seeing your child’s amazing abilities, then it’s time for a reality check. His skills may not be so amazing after all. And if that’s the case, if no one sees the potential, or the skill in your child’s ability, I mean NO ONE, then you might want to reconsider spending a lot of time and money on his dreams, because if the athletic ability is simply not there, then it’s just a fantasy.
3. Are the sacrifices to fuel this dream really worth it? I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a lot of athletes out there who have the passion and the ability, but whose parents felt that the sacrifices were just not worth it.
Is it worth it if…
- Your family relationships suffer because your other kids feel neglected?
- Your marriage takes a back seat to your child’s dreams, and disintegrates because of it?
- Your finances are stretched so thin that other family member suffer unduly?
Tough questions, I know. Because honestly, if the sacrifices you have to make for your child to achieve his “dream” run over and hurt others in the process, then you have to wonder…is it really worth it?
Dreams can come true
If you, your athlete, and your family can pass the dream test, then go for it! But remember, what your child can gain from sports is more valuable than recognition, awards, or even a college scholarship.
Someday, those glory days will be over. Press clippings and stats will come and go, but the positive character traits that your child can learn through sports will be part of your young athlete’s DNA for life. And that is any parent’s dream come true.