Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Growing Up and Away From Sports

There comes a time when one realizes his or her sports career is coming to an end. It is a depressing time. It was for me.

My youth sports career was limited by my lack of focus. I played soccer and basketball and baseball and tennis and golf. I did not play any of these sports at a high level. I didn't even know that there were higher levels above town leagues. And I guess my parents were not too eager to find out about them either.

In 9th grade, my best days of baseball were behind me and I had fallen behind in soccer to players who knew that there was another level. Additionally, I was not tall enough for basketball and did not have the great ball handling skills to make it as a guard. At the time, there were no HS golf teams, so playing competitively did not cross my mind. That left tennis. I was really good at tennis, but it was not my passion. I decided to tryout for the tennis team. My high school was highly ranked, so I knew that it was not going to be an easy team to make. My dad belonged to a tennis club, so we played a couple of times a week in the mornings to prepare. He also invested in some lessons for me. When tryouts came around, I thought that I was ready. Unfortunately, the coaching staff did not. Very few freshman made the team and I was not one of the chosen few.

I immediately called the baseball coach and asked if it was to late to tryout for the baseball team. He allowed me to join in the later rounds of the tryouts, but I realized he was not paying any attention to me. When he posted the cut list, I saw my name. I wallowed in self-pity for the entire season. It was the first season that I did not have a sport to play. I didn't even pick up a racquet that season to play for fun. In fact, I never picked up a racquet to play competitively ever again.

Luckily, there was a new sport emerging, lacrosse. Few kids had played the sport growing up so I was not too far behind. My lax friends encouraged me to play. I picked up the game very quickly and found my passion. I made the JV team and eventually played on the varsity team. The game made me much much tougher. The game made me much more fit. And most importantly, the game gave me confidence and not just on the lax field. If I had all of these qualities before, I could have made the squads in any of the other sports I had played previously.

My son is going through a similar cycle and this fall is the first fall that he did not have fall ball baseball or golf or basketball. He was the last freshman cut from the golf team despite playing well. His baseball team broke up so he tried out for 4 club teams. He did not make any of the teams, his lingering arm problems finally caught up to him.

He felt the same way I did when I was in 9th grade.

The Main Point

I gave up on tennis after my setback, I will not let Nic give up on golf. Looking back, he wished that he had dropped baseball before last year to concentrate on golf. His friends that made their teams had played all spring and summer long to prepare for golf, Nic only played the three weeks between the end of baseball and the golf tryouts.

Then this fall he did what I did. He found a new sport. He found boys volleyball. He joined a pre-season club team and learned the game. He fell in love with it. He signed up for tryouts for the club season, but a stress fracture in his back have derailed those plans for now. Hopefully he can get back to playing so he can prepare for the HS season.

Regardless, there comes a time when competitive sports stop and real life begins. Luckily, real life includes intramural sports and co-ed adult leagues.

4 comments:

  1. And I'm sure that the life of sports has brought some very good lessons for the "real life". Hope he gets playing again soon!

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  2. Getting your kids to participate in sports is one area I don't mind parents being pushy about. I can't think of a time I haven't' heard another adult say "Should of played ___ in high school but decided not to." Allow them to choose but keep them interested in something. Good read. Nice blog.

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  3. I follow your blog periodically as we have kids similar ages and situations, You write honestly and have provided me with some very helpful information over the years. (Many parents of young athletes are not as forthcoming with advice, as they want to keep an edge over the competition. Thank you for all the tips.) I wanted to comment on this latest post of yours because I am also noticing the winnowing down in the number of active athletes at this age, and how talented multi-sport athletes can fall through the cracks in high school. For all the times I've touted that playing multiple sports was healthier and better, now I wonder if concentrating on one of them would not have been a better path for my kids? I hope your son plans to try out for the high school baseball team and finds a home there. Freshman in high school is too early for "real life' to begin! Thanks again.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks - honestly specialization can work for a kid or against a kid. My oldest son put all his eggs in the soccer basket. He was a small fast player in his youth, but when he grew (6' 2'') he also slowed down considerably. Soccer is a speed game. He could not compete at the HS level. He is however enjoying club soccer in his young adult life. My daughter is very small - 15% in weight and 40% in height. She may grow and she might not. So she is sampling lots of sports - soccer (goalie), volleyball (Libero / setter) and basketball (point guard). All of these sports are made for taller people (soccer players are do not have to be tall, but goalies tend to be taller). If she does not grow then Vball will be the best sport for her. If she gets bigger and stronger, I think that basketball might be her best sport.

      What I am saying is that you never know what attributes your kid is going to have - they might be suited for the sport they are concentrating on and they might not be.

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