The truth is, and I’m not telling any of you what you already don’t know, the odds aren’t in our children’s favor of making it to the top in whatever sport they’re pursuing. Yet, as a parent, we continue to support our young athlete’s aspirations as if the odds be ever in their favor. Why?
If a family member came to you with an investment opportunity and you were told your outlay of thousands of dollars over ten years has a 50,000 to 1 chance of any return, I think you’d say to that family member, “Ya’ dreamin’, mate!” (Well, that’s what we’d say in Australia)
There’s a funny thing about human nature and how even when long odds are presented to us there’s a part of our reasoning brain that switches off and still carries on as if those statistics don’t apply to us.
Most, if not all our predictions for the future are inaccurate; we’ll over estimate, with little to no regard of our past history performance. And the truth be known is we’re probably more blinded by our own child’s ability than we think. We quietly believe, wish and pray that our kid will be the one that defies the odds and fulfils our dream—sorry, their dream. We think someone has got to make it. Why not mine!
Why? If the odds are against our young athletes, why do we even bother? The odds were against us when we were teenagers and we didn’t defy them, why do we think we can make the difference in our kids when we’ve already failed to reach the top. (If you did reach the top, forgive me, I don’t mean you, this is for the 99.9% rest of us that dreamed of the top)
Some parents are satisfied with their child learning a sport and just taking from that sport the life skills taught. Others are content with their kids having fun, and enjoying learning new skills and how to interact with their teammates. And there comes a time for some of us when we see the reality of our child’s ability and know our child won’t be an exceptional athlete, and so we take the pressure off them—and ourselves.
But for the rest of us, we suffer with that unconquerable human desire that has built our society and keeps us going through all failure and suffering, and that can only be called hope.
I could write how our young athletes need a written goal, a self-belief, persistence like no other, diligence and a passion that is beyond measure. And yes, this does increase their odds. It doesn’t mean they’ll make it to the top of their chosen sport but it does give them a better shot than those that don’t have the same drive.
No one, however, can predict the future of any teenage star in his or her chosen sport.
You think you know a certain athlete will go all the way? Not even the experts can pick that. A kid that signs a baseball contract with a Major League franchise has only a 6-7% chance of playing at the highest level; only 40% of first round draft picks—who are paid millions to be enticed to clubs—will ever set foot on a Major league diamond to be part of the ‘show’. These are the odds for young athletes that are already seen as the best of the best. The odds of getting at least signed in the first place are far slimmer. (I promise you I won’t bore you with any more figures—I hate them, too)
While our child has a dream—even with the odds being ever against them—it’s our role as a parent, using blind vision called hope, to work with them towards the odds being ever in their favour.
None of us have the elusive crystal ball to predict our child’s future. I wrote about that in chapter four, Dad! What Does Your Crystal Ball Say? Even if we did have that crystal ball, would we dare to look? We’ve seen enough movies about time travel and knowing the future to sort of get a grasp of how it would mess us up.
I think the big question is not will my daughter or son make it against the odds, but what else are they learning about themselves and about life from their chosen sport.
These are better odds. If you draw from their sport what else are they learning apart from hitting a ball over a fence with a piece of wood you’ll find a whole field of life lessons. From that you can teach character; you can implement discipline; you can find solutions to conflict; you can inspire leadership; you can allow failure to work its magic. If they happen to not make it to the top of their chosen sport they at least have a strong character to help them with their success in other areas of life where the odds are far better in their favor.
No shame in wanting your child to be a champion. No shame in supporting a dream against all the odds. No shame in expecting the discipline and perseverance that must be undertook to have a chance of making it.
However, it will be a shame if in the pursuit of sporting success the other lessons of life that will help develop a respectable and responsible human being are lost.
We’ve a tremendous responsibility in raising our kids. It’s more than challenging at times; it’s overwhelming. It’s confusing. It breaks our hearts. It’s competitive. When they fail, we feel the failure. When they lose, we lose… and along the way we make so many mistakes.
The great news is the odds of us learning from those mistakes are on our side. The odds of our young athletes learning from their mistakes are on their side. These are the things we can repair and control.
The odds are ever against our young athletes if they’re striving for the top. This is their journey, their struggle, their vision, their passion… their hope. We may as well buckle up (in the passenger seat) and enjoy the ride with them and be what they desperately need us to be—their biggest support.