Monday, March 24, 2014

Switching Sports at Age 15

Can a young athlete change sports at age 15 and find success?

My son's baseball career came to an abrupt end after playing at the highest level from age 9 to 14. A nagging elbow injury limited his ability to throw hard enough to compete on elite teams anymore. He could have moved to a lower level team, but he had lost his love for the game after three years of constant ice and physical therapy.

He decided to concentrate on golf and set his sights on making the high school team as a freshman. It was an ambitious goal for a kid who has spent more time on the baseball diamond than on a golf course, especially considering the school he was going to attend. The school of 800 boys only has two golf teams of 12 golfers (JV and Varsity). The team only took 4 freshman. Nic's score after 4 days of tryouts had him ranked 5th. He was the last freshman cut.

After he was cut, I asked him what sport he was going to play. He was discouraged and did not want to tryout for any sports. I told him that he needed to play at least one sport in high school because it is such an important part of connecting to the school and making friends. I talked him into trying out for the volleyball team. Nic tried to convince me that he could not make the team that wins state championships often. I talked to the coach and the coach told me that while the program is one of the best in the state every year, a good athlete with little experience can still make the freshman team.

While that is what I was hoping to hear, I was a bit surprised because my perspective was baseball and soccer. Boys baseball is a very developed sport and it would be impossible for a player new to the sport to compete with kids who have been playing travel ball for 5 to 7 years. Soccer is also very developed. High school players have been honing their skills on elite club teams since they were 8, so it would be very difficult to jump into soccer and expect to make a team at a big high school with competitive sports programs. The coach explained that boys volleyball is different. While girls volleyball is very developed in our area with 10 to 15 clubs training girls from age 8 on, boys volleyball is not. So a good athlete can pick up the game and compete in a relatively short amount of time.

Nic signed up for a winter volleyball club team to prepare for the tryouts. He came home from the first practice and said he felt like a fool. He knew how to bump, serve and spike, but he did not know the positions. The game was much more complicated than it looks. The coach and the guys on the team gave him the business in a lighthearted way. They called him Kobe because he was the only one wearing basketball shoes. Still, they taught him the game, he improved quickly and he started to love the game.

Nic tried out for the freshman volleyball team at his HS and made it. He did not play a single point until match number 9. Then he got his chance and he did not sit out another point all season. This year, he made the JV team and plays outside hitter and middle back.

Oh yeah, he was also named the team captain.

The Main Point

Keep competing and trying new things. You never know what it is going to lead to.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Youth Sports or Science Fair?

If your young athlete had to choose between competing in a sports tournament or a science fair what would you do?

In December, my daughter, CC, worked on her science fair project. All honors students in her school were required to participate. My daughter decided to study beach erosion after seeing the destruction of the New Jersey beaches from Hurricane Sandy. She replicated a shoreline and ocean floor in a large clear plastic container, simulated waves and then measured the movement of the sand with and without barriers. She also took time out from this project from time to time during the month to try out for a National Level Junior Olympic Volleyball team.

CC won first place in the local science fair and qualified for the District competition on March 15th. She also made the National Level JO team which meant lots of travel. The first thing that we did was check the volleyball schedule to see if the science fair was a conflict. As luck would have it, her volleyball team was schedule to play in a big tournament in St. Louis. We had a decision to make.

Crazy Youth Sports Parent Alert

The St. Louis tournament was scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Friday had two sessions, an am session and a pm session. I was hoping that CC's team was going to get the Friday morning session so that we could drive out on Thursday night, fly back to Cincinnati for the Science Fair competition and then fly back to St. Louis on Saturday evening to be there to play on Sunday. We planned to drive home after the tournament. I found flights that worked but waited to book the flights until the final schedule was announced. As it turned out, our team was placed in the Friday afternoon session and there were no flights that would work. We had a decision to make.

We decided to forgo the volleyball tournament. It was a really easy decision to make. CC has played in 100's of sports tournaments in her 13 years. She remembers some of them vividly but most are a blur of muddled memories. The Science Fair was going to be a memorable event that had the possibility to shape who she will be. She is not going to be a professional volleyball player.

Another girl on the team, decided to decline her invitation to the Science Fair to play volleyball.

The Main Point

Only 5% of athletes get to play sports in college, so academics should always trump sports.

Actually, a student can increase their chances of getting a scholarship if they are good students. DIII coaches often work with the admissions departments to give academic scholarships to lure athletes to play for their school.

As it turned out, we made a good decision, CC won several cash awards and was selected to advance to the Ohio State Science Fair in May. The first thing that I did was check the sports schedule. She does not have a volleyball conflict, but she does have a soccer tournament that weekend. We have a decision to make.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Youth Volleyball: Crazy Weekend, Crazy Money Spent

I had to share my crazy youth sports weekend and the ridiculous amount of money I spent because of it.

Flash back to November, my wife and I planned a five day getaway trip. Five days is about all I can handle being away from the kids. We planned to leave on Sunday, January 26th and return on a Friday, January 30th. We typically plan our getaways on a Sunday to Friday schedule for two reasons: 1) Every night is a school night. This makes it easier for my parents to watch the kids and 2) chances of missing a game are reduced.

As our trip approached, we found out that our daughter had a volleyball tournament in Nashville, Tennessee which is a 5 hour drive from Cincinnati. Our flight home from vacation was supposed to arrive at 11:30 pm on Friday. I did not want to drive 5 hours at night after a long day of traveling from the Caribbean, so I called Delta and the resort and changed our trip to a Saturday to Thursday schedule. 

COST: $300 and 20,000 miles to change the flight. No charge for the room change.

My wife and I had a great time, but we were ready to go home on Thursday to see the kids. Right before we were about to leave the resort, we found out that our flight to Atlanta, our connection city, was cancelled. We were stuck in the tropics for an extra day. We had to buy an extra day at the resort and Delta was not going to reimburse the amount because it was weather related.

 COST: $350 for an additional night at the resort.

We had to scramble and figure out how we were going to get our daughter to Nashville. Option 1 was to get home at 11:30 pm on Friday and drive all night. Option 2 was to get our daughter a ride to Nashville with a teammate or coach and meet our daughter there. 

We were very reluctant to choose option 2 because we do not know the coach or the other families yet. This is the first season that we have been with this club and this was the first tournament. We spoke to our daughter and she thought it would be fun to ride with the coaches, so we chose option 2. 

We called Delta to change our final destination to Nashville instead of Cincinnati. They were willing to do it, but would not put us on the 7pm flight to Nashville because they did not think that we could make the connection in time due to customs. Our option was a 10:30 flight. Instead of waiting 3 hours for a hour long flight, we decided to reserve a rental car in Atlanta and planned to drive the 3.5 hour trip. Well, our flight arrived early into Atlanta and we breezed through customs, so we asked Delta if we could jump on the 7pm Nashville flight. We made it with minutes to spare. We then rented a car in Nashville.

COST: $270 for a three day rental and a drop off fee.

Nashville is in the south, but it was not exactly warm there in January and the forecast called for snow on the Sunday of the tournament. We did not have any warm clothes. We left Cincinnati in a snow storm the day we left for our trip, but we left our coats at home. As a result, we had to buy a few sweatshirts and some long sleeve shirts. 

COST: $170 for warm clothes.

The team gathered for a team dinner at Old Chicago Pizza and Tap Room and we stopped at a grocery store to get tailgating food, paper plates, forks, etc. so the kids could eat quickly between games. 

COST: $130 for food and drinks.

It was all worth it. My daughter's team did really well in the tournament. Too well. They advanced all the way to the finals. The final match went to 3 games. The final game went to 16-14. As a result, we did not leave Nashville until 4:30 EST which was just about the same time a big snow storm was sweeping across Tennessee and Kentucky. After 6 hours of white knuckle driving, we got home, but we missed the Super Bowl. I apparently did not miss anything because it was not a good Superbowl.

I would rather watch my daughter than Payton Manning any day. She was fun to watch. At five foot one, my daughter was the shortest outside hitter in the entire tournament, but she did great because she can jump. She also played middle back.

The Main Point

Total cost $1,150. 

I would do anything to watch my kids play the sports that they love to play. 



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