When my oldest son was three years old, we signed him up for tee-ball. We beamed with pride as he walked up for his first at-bat and video taped pretty much everything that happened in his first game, from the pile up on the ball by the entire defense, to him sitting in the outfield picking clovers.
We were so excited. For me, it was a dream come true. My dad instilled in me a love of baseball from the time I was a toddler and I dreamed of playing someday until I was told I couldn’t because I was a girl.
But, was my son excited? If I’m being honest I would have to say, “No.” In fact, he was probably more excited about going to the snack bar and getting one of those red, white, and blue popsicles after the games.
At the time, there were a couple of kids who were already obsessed. One kid’s parents told me he would sit in front of the TV with his glove on and watch an entire game. Another said his son would ask 10 times a day to go play catch. It wasn’t like that for my boy. He liked it, but I think he would have been okay doing something else.
Flash forward 14 years and he’s now 17, and I’m not even sure if he’s going to be playing baseball in the Spring because he’s lost interest. He still runs cross country which he’s pretty good at, but didn’t hit off the tee or play catch at all in the off-season. He also didn’t want to play summer ball so he worked some part-time jobs, got his license, and enjoyed just hanging out.
It wasn’t like I didn’t have any clues. Over the years there were many times when he didn’t want to go to practice, or hitting lessons, and sometimes even wanted to skip games. On the other hand, my younger son has always been enthusiastic about doing anything sports-wise whether it’s practices, games, lessons, and is good with any sport. He just seems to love it.
So I’ve been wondering if I’ve done the right things along the way, and it got me thinking about passion. Most people have a passion for something. It could be something small like wine tasting or cooking. And then there are people who have real passions like wine tasting or cooking, but it’s on another level. Like, it’s their lives.
You may have asked yourself the question, “Should I make my child play sports?” If you’re expecting your kid to play baseball or any other sport in high school or college, he or she should definitely have a passion for it. Playing a sport at that level is a lot of work both on the field an off. It makes academics much more difficult and can be physically and mentally exhausting. If someone doesn’t love it to the moon, he’s not going to make it. And you’re going to feel like you’ve wasted a lot of time, money, and energy in pushing him to continue.
That’s where I am now. If I could do it all over again, I probably would not have pushed hard at all. I would have just let him play for fun and if he didn’t want to do it anymore, I wouldn’t have talked him into it. Because I did that. I kept thinking about my dream and telling him he might have regrets, but those were my regrets.
I know now, that there has to be passion for playing a sport. Your kid has to want to get up at 5:00 a.m. for tournaments and play in 100 degree heat because he would rather be there than anywhere else. He has to go outside and hit off the tee on his own because if he doesn’t, it’s just a fun thing that you encourage him to do, and he kinda likes. But it’s not passion.
That’s not to say that there won’t be times when they want to do something else. Sports takes a toll on the mind and body and sometimes a kid just wants to be a kid. Video games, hanging out with friends, and just relaxing are all important things that will tempt them away from sports, but it’s the ones who choose sports more of the time, that will make it.
"You could be a kid for as long as you want if you play baseball" ~ Cal Ripken, Jr.
When you think about how few kids get to play college sports you have to realize that only one percent of one percent of the best kids are going to make it, and it will only be the ones who truly love the game and can’t live without it. Listen to a speech from any professional athlete about his or her life and you will hear how hard they worked because it was all they ever wanted.
You may feel like your son or daughter may develop a passion for the game over time, and that could happen. But it will come from something inside of them, not from you pushing them. It will come from feeling the confidence that success brings, or just from how good it makes them feel to have fun playing the game. Let them find their own passions, wherever they lead.