Jason was an exceptional child with a soccer ball. He would chase it around the yard for hours, kicking goals between two recycling bins. His game was all the better if there was another team member like his dad or younger brother Ricky to kick the ball to an opposite goal.
Jason was wonderful, Jason was going to be a star. His parents enthusiastically drove him to every school soccer match, and his mother became the first aid person for the team. Ricky watched from the sidelines every weekend and didn’t complain as Jason received new boots, new uniforms, and professional soccer coaching lessons. Jason was destined to become a high-earning international soccer star they were sure of it.
Then Jason hit puberty. Suddenly he refused to play soccer, he quit the team, he developed an attitude, and he didn’t want a bar of soccer or anything else his parents suggested.
Producing a sporting prodigy may well restore the family honour, perhaps even make the family rich but who’s dream is it really?
As a parent or mentor, you can help or hamper a child’s chances for sporting success. The best person to help your child succeed may be someone else, perhaps a sporting professional but there are no guarantees.Introduce your son or daughter to professional coaching, and they may have just become a commodity, a source of income in an expensive sporting academy.
There are accelerator programmes and sporting academies galore, and there can also be a hole in your pocket leaking money at an alarming rate with no promise of a financial return.
Recognising when your child has genuine talent is difficult, so the experts suggest you expose them to as many sports as they are willing to give a go as they grow up. It’s all building on their physical skill and fitness after all.
The experts agree pre-puberty is not the time for assessing talent. Kids grow and develop at different rates and although he or she may be big (or small) for their age, another year of rapid growth could see the whole team catch up or surpass them. The amount of time a parent has spent playing ball with them could enhance their skill for now, but ultimately it may have just given them a temporary edge.
Forcing your child to specialise in a sport too early can be a talent killer.
Surveys have shown the more successful sportspeople played a variety of sports when they were younger. Specialising came later when the opportunity and the right team presented itself. For most children, specialising in one particular sport is best after 16 or 17 years of age, not 12 years as many assume.
Competitive and pushy parents need to understand and accept, there’s no harm in being average at sport as it involves a lifetime of fun and friendships.
Let your child experience the highs and lows of being on a sports team, and the lessons that come from competing but pushing a child past their physical (and mental) capabilities is often a passion killer.