Family, First / by James Leath

"You are a family, first, not a support system for an athlete."

As adults, we have a responsibility to allow our children to be children. Why do so many parents feel the need to fill every weekend with tournaments and training at the cost of letting a child be a child? What about family time? What about letting kids hang out with their friends? These are a problem that is only being exacerbated by many people in youth sports, specifically the club coaches who promise that taking a weekend off, much less a few weeks, would be severely detrimental to the development of that player. That is just wrong thinking.

What does a female all-star high school volleyball player and a male all-star high school baseball player have in common?

They are both kids. Kids need to have time not to be the all-star, to hang out and be normal for a few days.

I received an email from a father of a high school football player last week. This father had moved the family across the country for one reason: to get his son into a school that would get him noticed. However, when they got there, after moving their whole lives, the coaching staff changed, and the new staff did not keep old promises. Is it the fault of the coaching staff? No, I don’t think so. 100% blame falls on the parents. They should not have gambled year of the life of their kids. That was a risk they should not have taken, and a move that should not have happened.

From the email:

"My son is an outstanding elite athlete and QB. He has a great attitude, work ethic, football IQ, skill set and leadership ability with a focus on team. Players gravitate to him due to his leadership and focus on team. In fact, thats what most coaches who work with him say after working with him. “He has something special,” etc.”

Parents, I know you think your child is great. Maybe they are, but they are a child first, not an athlete. Trading a childhood for a possible scholarship is a terrible investment and one that your child will suffer for later in life. How, you ask? Your child is developing in high school. They are making friends, losing friends, making mistakes, learning from mistakes, getting into trouble, learning the consequences of making bad decisions, and growing up. Maybe all the moving will be great for the kids to be able to make new friends, sure. And staying at one school doesn’t guarantee a stable adult will grow from that experience. But, putting pressure on a child to perform after moving the family across the country? That is unfair. There is enough pressure on a high school kid without adding the livelihood of the family.

Below is my response to his email.

I've given your email a lot of thought, and I am sorry, but I don't think you are going to like my answer. Recruiters don't care what high school an athlete attends. If your son is really good, they will know. What is important is that he is playing. The most unfortunate part of this whole situation is that he only gets a few years in high school, and the pressure to perform after the entire family moves just for him is way too much pressure for a child (he is still a child) to bear. If you can move back home, where you have a support system and he can be with his friends, do it.

Too harsh, maybe? Perhaps I am wrong. Let me know your thoughts.