Long Road Resources

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Eliteam Dance
Campers rocking the 2015 version of the Eliteam Dance

Today was one of my favorite rites of summer—Eliteam pick up at GMVS. This was my last year to be picking up an actual camper. Boo! But the beginning of counselorhood. Yay! What Doug Lewis does with these kids is pure magic. If you get a chance scroll through the photos in the camp photo gallery to get a peek at all they do in a typical day.

This year I gave a little talk to parents before pick up. It was a version of the Long Road speech with which my readers are all very familiar. To the uninitiated, I explained why I’m more apt to write about fear, failure, frustration, losing, confidence, teamwork, happiness and even condiment sandwiches than about winning. If you read my stuff, you know the drill—winning is a worthy goal but is cruelly rare, so you’d better support and enjoy the process more than the outcome.

Today I made references to some good resources for sports parenting. As promised, I’m passing them along.

First, is a recent article from John O’Sullivan entitled The Three Myths That are Destroying Youth Sports. Very summarized, the myths go like this:

Myth #1, “The Tiger Woods/10,000 Hour Myth:” Your child must specialize as early as possible if he or she wants to play college or pro sports

Reality: There are no definitive studies that directly tie early specialization to greater chance of long-term, high-level success but there is a USOC report that links high-level success to an early, multi-sport background. Furthermore, early specialization increases your chance of injury and burnout.

Myth #2 “The 9 Year Old National Champion Myth:” Win as soon as possible, as often as possible, travel as far as we need to get games, and only pick and play the kids who help us do that.

Reality: Selecting too young drives kids out who will peak later and vastly decreases the talent pool long term. To maximize your athlete’s long term sporting future, choose development over competition.

 Myth #3, “Youth Sports is an Investment in a Scholarship:” If my kid specializes, gets on the winning team as early as possible, and I invest in long distance travel, private lessons, and the best gear, I will recoup this investment when college rolls around.

Reality: Only 1 in 10,000 high school athletes gets a partial athletic scholarship. The average award is $11,000 per year. Academic scholarship dollars far outweigh sports aid. Sports is not a financial investment.

It’s worth reading that one through.

Another great resource for coaches and parents is the Positive Coaching Alliance. Check out the PCA Way for a one pager on what they are all about. They have tons of tips and resources for parents , coaches and athletes which offer an excellent way to help join their mission to create “better athletes, better people.”

I think I’ve posted it before, but Rosalind Wiseman, who wrote outstanding books on teenage girls and boys (Queen Bees and Wannabes, Masterminds and Wingmen), has an excellent SmartTeams talk that offers scripts to use with your kids and coaches to help turn awkward or challenging sports situations into teachable moments.

More recently I ran across The Players’ Tribune, a site started by Derk Jeter that features first person stories by elite athletes. The insights are honest—sometimes brutally so—and offer a really good insider look at the highs and lows that accompany a life dedicated to sport.

Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children, by Tom Farrey, is a comprehensive look at how and why youth sports evolved into what they now are in this country. And yes, it’s all about the money (of course 10- year-olds need national tournaments!). It may not make you feel a lot better, but it explains a lot and can help parents and kids make informed decisions.

But don’t forget, the best resource of all are your fellow parents and your kids’ coaches. We’re all in this together, so let’s share the love!

6 thoughts on “Long Road Resources”

  1. Edie it was great meeting you today. My wife and daughter enjoyed as well. The speech was great but the time you spent with us helping plan the future was really great. Thank you.

    • Great to meet you as well! I am sure we will cross paths many times in the coming months and years on the long road. Thanks for checking in.

    • Thanks for reading! Got a cooking one coming up, so be sure to buy some sweet potatoes and cashews. All will make sense soon!

  2. Edie,

    Heard you speak in VT yesterday when I was picking up my son. I have learned “I loved watching you play” the hard way but as a regular coach I teach it as often as possible to the parents willing to learn it. It is a beautiful way to relieve the pressure that kids put on them selves, and parents (sadly) often put on them as well, my self included. I am sorry I did not get the time to ask a question that we have been wrestling with in our house.

    How do you keep up with the financial demands of a child who is driven to race?

    I take side work as an EMT and that allowed me to also join the Ski Patrol which certainly helps. My mountain is very friendly to pro-patrollers / family, and that takes a pretty big bite out of the mountain race program. The high school race program is helpful as well, they know I work two and three jobs to deal (to be honest both of my kids play advanced soccer as well, also tough on the check-book). But when the kids start becoming exposed to wanting to travel more, or looking at specific schools it becomes a little scary. What do you say to a kid who on his own is filling out applications to places like GMVS? I don’t really believe in “can’t” (the quote from an old friend is “Can’t ain-t never got anything done…”). But we are not sure how do pay for something we clearly do not have the resources for. Thoughts?

    And of course, thanks for a great read. Fantastic resource!

    • THAT is the big question. Whether people talk about it or not, cost is the thing the entire industry has to tackle. In the meantime programs like yours, and Ford Sayre in our community, and Cochranes and so many great ones sprinkled across the county are the saviors and they need to survive. That, and everyone needs to take a longer term approach, which is slowly happening at the National Team level and will hopefully trickle down so families can save their powder for when they really need it. I wish I had a better answer, but keeping grass roots alive is key. Thanks for writing and good luck to your son this season.

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