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article imageOp-Ed: Going pro in the 21st century: Why my son won't become athlete

By Daniel Taibleson     Nov 7, 2013 in Lifestyle
Children's participation in sports is a part of the fabric of American culture, and the number of children playing sports today is greater than ever.
According to the Kids First Sports Center, the number of children playing organized youth sports fluctuates between 30 and 40 million each year, with about 75 percent of households participating. It is not uncommon in the United States, where professional sports figures are showered with praise and wealth, for some fathers to develop unrealistic expectations that their sons will “go pro.” There are many reasons why men need to stop perpetuating unrealistic sports-oriented goals for their sons.
Redefine Expectations
Perhaps you see your son as a phenomenon, that stand-out player from his Little League games, or a beast on the basketball court. The truth is, no matter how incredible your kid is at sports now, the odds are stacked against him. Statistics published by the NCAA show the odds of a high school basketball player making the NCAA are only 3.3 percent, while the odds of an NCAA player going pro are only 1.3 percent. A study by the Cumberland Minor Hockey Association found your son has a less than a .05 percent chance of “going pro” and playing for the NHL. Statistically speaking, there are better goals to set.
In fact, a major part of the problem with unrealistic paternal expectations regarding sports is they blur an important line in a boy's life: the difference between dreams and goals. While dreaming about being a professional sports player can drive one to play baseball and stretch the limits of your imagination, setting and achieving realistic goals teaches confidence and self-reliance.
As fathers, our responsibility is to give our sons the best toolkit available to confront the world, regardless of the direction it takes them. Setting one acceptable path of success prohibits our sons from creating new adventures and sets them up for failure. If your son wants to attend audio engineering school rather than play ball for your alma mater, don't view it as a disappointment. Instead, see it as confirmation that you have raised an intelligent and driven young man who can make decisions for himself.
Changing your unrealistic expectations will help you think more critically about how you help your son reach his goals. For example, The Huffington Post recently reported the average parent spends almost $700 a year on youth sports for one child, while 20 percent of parents spend $1,000 or more a year. If your son plays on club teams, stack on hotel and travel costs, which escalate the overall expense to thousands of dollars a year per child. What fiscal lessons are you teaching a son when spending like that? Imagine the amount a club baseball player's parents could set aside for college every year if they set more realistic expectations on their children and selves.
Fathers who push their sons to do what they want and not what their children want for themselves risk becoming controlling. A controlling father who has unhealthy expectations is likely to withhold love, shared activities and other positive rewards if his son doesn't do exactly what he wants him to. Children of controlling fathers grow up feeling incapable, because they perceive life has specific and rigid expectations of them about how things are done. A Kansas State University study reports adults who grew up with controlling fathers are less independent and self-assured and less able to make decisions themselves. Children of controlling fathers learn a disrespect for authority that can translate into delinquency and academic failure. If they view mentors and figures of authority as rigid, unable to adapt and selfish, children are less likely to do what is expected of them long into their adult lives.
Better Reasons to Play
There are plenty of great reasons for kids to play sports that have nothing to do with a father's negative or unfulfillable expectations. The socials skills children gain through sports are significant. Youth sports teaches kids how to interact with others and be a good sport. It also highlights the importance of the mentor relationships in their lives, such as the ones they build with team captains, coaches and older players.
Additionally, sports boost self-esteem and can lead to better academic performance. The Daily Mail reports a study of 9,700 high school students that found children who play team sports possess great self-esteem and perform better academically. Responsible team sports play leads to a healthy lifestyle and promotes exercise and healthy eating habits than can last a lifetime.
Accepting that your child may not be destined for the World Series can be difficult for men whose own fathers placed similar unrealistic expectations on them. Your son is a person of his own, and it is part of your job to help him become an adult man capable of facing the world and making a place for himself in it.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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