One of my girlfriends recently confessed that she’s paying thousands of dollars a year for football clinics, workshops, equipment and personal training for her son.
He’s not even 12.
The goal, she hopes, is a lucrative professional football contract in 20 years. A full-ride scholarship to a Big 10 school is a nice consolation prize, too.
While her intentions are noble — hey, who doesn’t want their kids to get a college education and make millions of dollars in Nike endorsements? — the cost is overwhelming. She and her husband aren’t rich. They live in a modest townhouse and make a modest income. And like most parents, they want the best for their son — who, by the way, loves playing football. But when does it become too much — and what happens when it’s not enough?
The New York Times recently published an article about parents who sacrifice to provide these opportunities for their kids — from tutoring to horseback riding to summer camps with professional athletes. Some have even take out loans, borrowed money from their families and maxed out credit cards just to pay for all these experiences they feel their children can’t miss — or feel guilty about denying.
But here’s the thing: there’s no evidence that shows these experiences will pay off in the end.
“It’s easy to take a look at the more successful kids and assume that all the activities are why they are more successful,” said Bryan Caplan, an economics professor at George Mason University. “But research doesn’t bear that out.”
When I was growing up, both my parents worked — and they didn’t have time to take me to soccer practice or piano lessons. I grew up fending for myself, signing up for volleyball and basketball on my own in fourth grade — I was good at forging my mom’s signature — just to kill time before my parents could pick me up after work. We didn’t have the means or the time for the kinds of extracurricular activities kids today have.
Sometimes I wish I had done more, started earlier, learned a foreign language or played an instrument. And I wonder if I’m going to be one of those parents who give their kids all the opportunities I missed out on.
Then again, I actually played during my summers growing up. I went to the beach and hung out with my friends. Playing, to me, is an essential part of childhood. (Well, even adulthood, but that’s another blog.) I don’t think I would change that, either.
My girlfriend is making the best decisions she can for her son. She wants to provide him all the opportunities she can that will help him succeed in football — and life. I admire her commitment and devotion. And I know even if her son woke up one morning and said, “I’m over football,” he will have learned a lot from the experience.
Let’s hope he remembers to pay his mom back!
Hay cuz from what i know your parents did a great job, dont change anything about yourself.
I wish I played an instrument, though. Too late now! My brain is broken!
There are more opportunities now especially for kids that play sports. Besides specialized camps there are coaches for speed, agility, and strength training too. There are also more clubs and leagues that they can play in nowadays.
For sports the bottom line is that the more you practice the better you will get but the caveat is that the kid has to enjoy playing that sport. Through coaching I have seen many kids that are signed up by their parents but the kid has no real interest in the sport. The sport ends up being “baby sitting” or day care for the parents. But if the parents push the kid into an area that they are not interested in, all the lessons, coaching and clinics etc. really won’t make them better.
Best thing is to give the kids the opportunity to try different sports or interests that they have when they are younger. As they get older, specialized training would make sense.
Another thought is that in sports size and physical attributes make a huge difference, all the training at an early age will not change that. The kids that are taller and bigger will always get the first look at the highest levels.
Case in point, one of the UH basketball coaches told me that in Brazil the national volleyball team is recruiting all of the 7 footers and is drawing the ire of the Brazilian national basketball team. So size does matter when you get to the highest levels.
I like the idea of cultivating a child’s interest — but when does it become too much? I think that’s the hard part. You want to push your child — but you don’t want to push too hard.
There are sports where size doesn’t matter.
Hmm… I can think of one — surfing.
Hello Cat, us as parents can do and spend the money to provide the best for your childs future but the bottom line will be up to your child. Interest could change later, the drive could go away, it’s what the child put into is what they get out of it.
But what about the kids who aren’t motivated? Should parents step in and “force” them to do things like play soccer or learn a foreign language? It’s hard. You don’t want to push them to the point where they end up hating it and resenting you…
Makes me think of that TV commercial where the parents say they taught their 5 year old how to dunk a basketball so they can save money on college.
LOL! I didn’t see that. What was the commercial advertising?
I’m all for giving my kids opportunities, but aside from investing in education, I try not to buy into all these expensive extras. For those who do, though, hopefully their kids truly enjoy them, since the long-term payoff of college scholarships or professional sports careers are highly unlikely.
I prefer affordable community programs for sports and activities and the good old Great Outdoors. I also think it’s important for kids to learn to organize some of their own activities and seek extra opportunities — like batting practice with their dad or their coach — rather than having everything scheduled (and paid) for them. If a kid has talent and a passion for something, they can nurture it in more natural, cost-effective ways.
Most importantly, I also try to remember the most important thing to “schedule.” TIME with my kids! Kids need their parents more than they need all these “experts!”
That’s great — remembering to schedule time with you kids. I think sometimes we overbook our kids and forget to pencil ourselves in!
Only a small percentage of high school student athletes will get a full ride scholarship to a college/university and an even smaller percentage will go on to become a professional athlete. I wish your friend all the best but I’d be more concerned with his/her academic and social skills than athletic prowess.
Google Todd Marinovich and you’ll find a man whose father “bred” him to become a professional quarterback. He did make the NFL but after a couple of years he was just burned out. Drugs became his passion…well that and his art and music.
Guide your child as best you can but in the end, it’s their life and their decision as to what they’ll become.
Jaydee, I had fully intended on posting this:
“Two words: Todd Marinovich”
But you beat me to it.
You’re right, his is a cautionary tale!
We used to call him Todd Marijuanavich during our Fantasy Football drafts back when he was in the NFL, LOL!
Never heard of Todd Marinovich — interesting story. Thanks for sharing!
My son just graduated from HS and played soccer most of his life. Played varsity for four years. He wasn’t the best player on the team but was a starter and did his best on the field. That’s all I could expect from him that he did his best and give a 110% and never gave up. He never gotten any soccer scholarship for college but because he excelled in the class room and got a 4.0 GPA and graduated with honors. he has gotten academic scholarships and his college tuition is just about paid for for 4 years. What he did in the class room is more important to me and him than sports IMO.
“stage mom”. reliving one’s one life through that of a child. or just using the child for a meal ticket. Either way, borders on abuse,and i’m really not a fan of this or these its “show-me-the-money” plans. We’ve all heard about parents acting like fools at little league games and even taking to violence. ANd the percentage of one actually making the big time/and making it unscathed is very very low. So, what about the kid? will education be sacrificed for this all exclusive goal? Steroids be included? High rates of suicide for kids taking steroids.Not to mention the toll on the body.Is the mom gonna be like that cheerleader mom and hire hitmen to eliminate the competition or a coach who doesnt play the kid? AND what happened to the new great ploitically correct sports? You know, the ones now where they dont keep score and every kid gets a trophey. Yep…no thrill up the leg with this idea. Think i’ll just let kid go with what his likes and talents are leaning towards.And just be there to guide. Nothing wrong with being a top flight intra-mural athlete,weekend warrior, or peaking in high school like Al Bundy(4 touchdowns in one game!).
Frankly I cringe when I read stuff like this. For one thing a lot of times it is the byproduct of one parent trying to prove to a court they are the better parent because of all the ‘great things’ they can buy for their kid. In another case it is trying to one up your neighbor by proving you can spend more on your kid. Either way I hate it. My kid wants to play with me. He wants us to throw the ball together, shoot hoops, go fishing, play golf, and surf in Waikiki, and sail KBay, and whatever else he is inclined to do including homework, XBOX, etc. he doesn’t want some stranger doing this with him. My concern is that my son gets to be a kid. he wants to be with me, and I with him. I love him more than anything on this planet. And yes I have had to sit in court and listen to reasons why I should not have custody of my son. Extremely expensive lawyers telling the judge I am not taking parenting classes, sending my son to summer camps, questions about his athletic and school performance. It made me sick. Somehow being President’s Council on Academics AND Athletics was not good enough to them. They tried to spin it that he could do better! Insanity! First in his class was not good enough. Nor was the fact his guidance counselors said he was more well adjusted than his two parent counterparts who were buying all of this crap for their kids. I can still see the super smug look on the lawyers face when he posed the following question to me in court. ‘So, Mr. Jackson given all that your ex can give … all the above mentioned paid for camps etc … don’t you agree your son would be better off with his mother.’ and the look on his face when I responded ‘Well at least when he lives with me he gets to spend time with one of his real parents.’ For the record, my son still lives with me. When I read this stuff in this article all I can think of is why oh why don’t you love your kids enough to want to be with them and do things with them. They are your children not your automatons. At a time they need love, hugs, parental discipline, you want them to be the next Jennifer Capriati? And what is so sad is that the people that offer all of these services have some parents convinced that it is good for our kids. INSANITY. I agree with the one writer that says this is child abuse… and disguising it as something else and some in society’s acceptance of it being a good thing is horrifying.
I do think kids don’t get to be kids anymore… I cherished my summer breaks doing nothing… Those are the best memories for me — and ones I think that have shaped the person I’ve become. (Whatever that is!)
From here it looks like you are doing just fine.
i”d make a guess that those werent really summers of nothing…..bet you read books!
I swear, if it wasn’t for the “adult language” in the video, I would soooooo love to post the link to a video I saw on YouTube of George Carlin discussing children in this day and age. In his typical Carlin way, he describes everything from children, to parenting, to society.
Cat, you titled this one “Are kids these days overbooked?” and I would have to answer, yes, they are. George had the perfect example of this when he described that as kids, there were no such thing as “play dates” like there are nowadays. WWD!
I am SO going to Google that!
If you want, email me and I’ll send the Carlin Youtube link to you. 🙂
Carlin rules. is that the one where he talks about never getting sick because he swam in rivers of sh*t? hehehe
You came out okay after being “deprived” of all the organized activities, didn’t you?! My parents asked if we wanted to go to Japanese school. Wait a minute, go to school after school? For us it was a no-brainer and considering my friends that went learning very little Japanese, we did better just being kids & playing. I eventually learned Japanese at UH with a lot more interest.
Sometimes I think parents too much into organizing activities for their little ones are preparing them for the hovering parent (lol).
I liked just being a kid…
Me, too. I liked being a kid. In fact, I still wish I were a kid!
absolutely overbooked. my son (well, I) got an email seeing if he wanted to play fall baseball this year. he’s freakin’ 6 years old. he loves it and is good at it (for a six year old) but he’s 6. he had fun in t-ball this year, but there’s no way a six year old needs to play year round baseball. we already have him in swimming lessons (once a week for 6 week sessions here and there throughout the year), taekwondo (a couple times a week for the past few years) t-ball (just during the traditional spring season) and a few random basketball camps (his best friend’s father is a hoop junkie so we go along for the ride…my son definitely has no future as the next kobe bryant). also, saturday japanese school. sounds like a lot, but it’s really only one or two things at a time.
as for “playdates”, we mostly hang out with his best friend’s parents anyway, so we all go to someone’s house or to the park if we’re all free at the same time. nothing really scheduled.
even that schedule is overwhelming at times, but it’s nothing like i see other kids’ families going through.
Whoa, that sounds like a lot.
But I think this is our culture now. I mean, my schedule is ridiculous — and I’m booking it myself!
it does sound like a lot, but it’s sounds worse than it is. tkd is the only year round activity (well, j school, but that’s more like school than an extracurricular activity). the rest is a couple of weeks or months at a time. he never really has more than two activities going on at a time (three including j school, I guess) and it never adds up to more than a couple of hours a week, total. lots of time for gardening (which he loves) cooking (ditto), the park, and just screwing around being a kid.
Late to the table and as probably have a little too much to say about this, I’ll keep it simple.
It’s beneficial to be more well-rounded in sports. Skills in one will transfer to another sport. Lacrosse coaches like getting basketball players because similar skills are used. Same with basketball coaches with volleyball players; especially the ones with hops. If one can hit a slide in volleyball, it’s duck soup to get the form for shooting a lay up as the footwork is similar.
Club coaches, they get paid if a kid is in their program. So take what they have to say with a grain or ten of salt.
Kids who get overbooked sometimes burn out towards the end of high school. There have been too many players who don’t experience the “payoff”, their senior season, because they’re tired and quit playing before they’ve reached the promised land.