Be Careful What You Cheer For
My son scored two goals this weekend.
As a 7-year-old who’s just starting out in soccer – and a son of a huge sports fan – that’s very exciting news! He’s absolutely over the moon about it and is already asking about the next practice and the latest newfangled practice gear.
But it also means that my plans for exotic vacations, fancy sports cars, and weekend benders to Vegas have just hit a serious snag. In this day and age, success in youth sports is quite possibly the worst thing you can hope for, as it relates to your child – and to your life.
As my son grows older and presumably continues with his passion -- as well as his aptitude -- for soccer, I'm fully aware that it means days, nights, and weekends devoted to practices, scrimmages, games, and tournaments. And the incessant cash cows that are leagues, equipment, tournaments, and coaches means a hearty depletion of any 'funny money' bank account I may have dreamt about.
My wife doesn’t realize this yet. She feels that, like his interest in Tae Kwan Do or his absolute addiction to everything dinosaurs, soccer may turn out to be a passing fancy. As he gets older, other interests take over. Or physical talent doesn’t spike for him as it does for his competitors, so losing may temper his excitement.
But I’m here to tell you and her that the die is cast. I’ve fast forwarded 3, 4, 5 years and played out every year in between. I know how these things are. See, youth sports – even just one youth sport – is not seasonal. It’s year-round. It’s not just one league, like AYSO or Little League. These leagues have spawned All-Star leagues and Tournament leagues and Travel Teams. There are league costs and uniform costs and travel costs.
Is it fun? Absolutely! I love to watch my son compete, and he is good -- really good. Are there positives to be had? Sure, there’s a dream land -- a fantasy that his continued growth in his chosen sport could lead to a collegiate scholarship and maybe even professional contract. Okay, I’ll let the reader laughter subside before I continue on … You done?
So what’s the answer? Where is that sweet spot between being a good father -- one that encourages his son to chase his dreams and have fun doing it -- and the one who tempers false hopes, keeps his son grounded, and makes him pay for his own portable pop-up soccer goals?
If you have the answer, let me know. I’ll be the guy sitting on the sideline in the foldable hooded Quad chair.