Sports Parenting – Just Chill Out About the “Next Level”

by Kent Sterling

UnknownTwitter is a wonderful tool for communication.  It’s immediate, capable of sending a tightly crafted message to millions, and can be as dangerous as it is helpful.  Tonight, I saw this – “Parents take control of the recruiting process as early as 5th grade. Visit a college campus on ur own, plant the seed!”  Yikes.

The tweet was sent by a well-meaning guy, who clarified the message.  What he meant to say was more like, kids with goals tend to work harder than those who don’t.

Kids dream of playing college basketball, especially during the month of March.  Hell, I dream of playing college basketball every March.  And the tweeter is right, there is nothing like a dream to motivate hard work.  Fifth grade is not too early to spend time working on ballhandling, but it is way too early for a parent to indulge in dreams on behalf of a talented child.

There are ways beyond hiring a trainer and getting a kid shoehorned on to an elite fifth grade summer team that parents can help a kid improve.  The first is to not take every game so damn seriously.  I’ve been there.  The weekly tournaments all over Indiana, the persistent critiques, and the investment in the results all contributed not one thing to the development of my son as a basketball player.

What he did get out of that work and play was a group of friends that he still has, a sense of accomplishment in doggedly pursuing his potential, and an understanding of how to take direction and apply it.  Now, he helps kids at Cathedral learn to love the game as he does.

None of that has anything to do with the conversations we had in the car after he didn’t play well, or my making it seem like the result of pool play in the Indiana Shootout was more than a silly diversion.

If I had one piece of advice for the parents of kids – regardless of talent level – is to concentrate on the quality of your kid’s character, not his game.  The result of a late game jumper is irrelevant.  Your response to it can be crucial.

Enjoy the game.  Enjoy your kid.  Keep everything in perspective.  Basketball is a silly game.  Getting great at it is a wonderful challenge, but it doesn’t have anything at all to do with a kid’s value.  Sit in those uncomfortable bleachers for hours and hours because you love and support your son, not because you are validated when the ball slices through the net.

Encourage your son to live a life of purpose, and if basketball is a part of that, all the better.  If college ball is in the cards, that will open doors that might remain shut otherwise, but understand that all of your desires and hopes don’t mean a damn thing to the coaches as they decide whether your son is worthy of their investment.

Relax.  Enjoy.  Encourage.

One thought on “Sports Parenting – Just Chill Out About the “Next Level”

  1. Kyle

    I’m not a dad and don’t plan on being one anytime soon, but I do understand how difficult/frustrating it can be to be a fan. I act like a crazed hyena when I watch Crean erratically substitute or draw up out-of-bounds plays. How pathetic is that? My only connection to IU basketball is that it’s the school I attended and the bars I drank at. Yet, every Remy Abell shot takes years off my life. It’s hard being a fan. Maybe because it’s out of your control. You feel as if you yell louder, or stomp your feet harder, that it’s going to matter. It’s your way of thinking you have control. And again, this is how I feel about a team I have no more a connection to than the 75 years worth of students before me. I can only imagine what it’s like to have my kid on a team, let alone on one of the best AAU and high school teams in the state. Great read and advice.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *