Keep Children Open to All Sports

Knowing what sport your child should concentrate on is not always so obvious. How do the parents and child decide which sport would be the best overall choice and at what age should such a decision be made?

Unfortunately, there are no clear-cut answers to these questions.

If your athletic daughter is already tall as a freshman in high school, she is probably dreaming of triple-doubles on the basketball court rather than double plays on the softball field. If your 13-year-old son is built like a tank and is more aggressive than a Washington lobbyist, are you going to encourage him to be a point guard on the basketball team or a nose guard on the football squad?

Going into high school I wanted to be a football player. Our family had been on a summer vacation so I showed up late for the start of practice. I remember telling the coach I wanted to play on his team. I told him I wanted to be a receiver.

The coach was so thrilled over my appearance that he immediately stated that the team already had enough receivers and that I needed to join another group — the bears and the lions. I soon found out that “bears and lions” stood for guards and tackles. Presto! I became an interior lineman. Here I was, a 6-foot-five, 167-pound beanpole, butting heads with 5-foot-11, 230-pound boulders with legs.

Six weeks later I had had enough of this position. I told the coach how I felt, and he had some choice words for me. I never played football again.

Next, I joined the basketball team. I had a great time and was quite successful. This is my sport, I decided.

When the season was over and I told my dad that I had decided to concentrate on basketball, he was silent. Then he gave me some of the best advice of my life.

He said, “Dave, just because you had a bad experience with football does not mean that you will have a similar experience with baseball. You are only 16 and you have always liked baseball. Why don’t you give it a try? You never know.”

I went out for the baseball team. Seventeen years later I retired from professional baseball.

There are two ways to look at today’s sports. The majority of kids play sports to have fun and learn a few things about life in the process. The second view involves money. Is my child good enough to earn a college scholarship, good enough to become a professional and make the really big money?

If you decide your child belongs in the second category, sports become a serious business. Suddenly, every issue can become critical. As a parent, you can become overwhelmed while always attempting to make the right decision.

Try not to let this happen. Let your child play as many sports as he or she enjoys. If your child is talented enough to earn a college scholarship or to become a professional athlete, don’t worry; the opportunity will arrive.