I saw the following memory today on my Facebook feed as several teams in my club prepare for their finals in the State Cup while almost every soccer family in Western PA is carefully planning and plotting their schedules for tryouts this coming week for the next playing year.
This is a perfectly timely memory for that day and something that all parents of young athletes should pay attention to. This picture is from the 2009 Soccerfest when these boys were 7 years old and U8. That same event is happening on those same fields today. As I look at this team that was full of talented little athletes with bright futures, I see absolute statistical evidence about youth sports. Only 2 of these players are still playing soccer and 2 others are successful playing other sports. This is not an indictment on this group at all but just a simple illustration of how things change as kids get older. The attrition rate in youth sports is real and this evidence is displayed in this simple Facebook memory. These kids could remain athletes, become teachers, physicians, artists or musicians, who knows but the bottom line is that they were all at one time…athletes.
These boys are now 17 years old. For all of my friends with kids in sports….Please…enjoy this time now and don’t be in such a hurry to take them to the National Team, listen to your coaches and club administrators.
Don’t discuss the game, the coaches or other players in the car, this is about your child and not you. Enjoy the games, leave the referees alone. Don’t try to over manage your kids’ careers. Let them “Play” the “Game”. There are so many great lessons and life skills to be learned from athletics and it is our responsibility to allow our children to live the experiences good and bad, themselves.
All people end their athletic careers at some point for a variety of reasons and it goes by really fast. I really hope that players leave their sports and athletic careers enriched and satisfied and not because of pressure, burnout or lack of fun.
I have several players on a team that I coached since they were 8,9 or 10 who will be playing in their last Club Soccer Game this afternoon. They have only played for one club and I am happy to see that these boys have been able to experience a team, and a sport full of ups and downs, failures and achievement. My sole wish is that these experiences shape the men they become.
If you are a parent, coach or Administrator, you have a direct impact on the experience that youth athletes have. Let these kids participate on their terms, let them fail, watch them succeed and let the experience be theirs.