It’s Not Free College

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

A recent Time Magazine cover story titled, How Kid Sports Turned Pro, Crazy Travel, Crazy Cost, Crazy Stress provided accounts of multiple families spending upwards of $100,000 in lessons and travel expenses to ensure their sports-playing children had the best training and played on the most competitive teams. The author surmised, “There may be no single factor driving the professionalization of youth sports more than the dream of free college.”

I’ve read many other articles like this one before. All take a balanced and “unbiased” approach to their description of the families. The author tries to appear non-judgmental. But the parents inevitably seem to come off as being abnormal, maybe a little crazy. The question is always, “Why would they do it? What is their motivation?”

Consistently, these writers bring up college scholarships, as if that is the ultimate and only reason parents go to such lengths. It is as if authors are either jumping to that conclusion or unable to find any other answer. My experience, when my kids were young and playing, was that college scholarships were never thought of. We were all just hoping our kids would be able to make the high school team.

Things have definitely changed since then. Billions of dollars are being poured into youth sports in the form of mega-complexes and elite tournaments drawing kids nationwide. There are even travel coaches using social media to form super teams that fly in 9 and 10 year players from thousands of miles away.

But what these authors also don’t seem to know is that the majority of college scholarships, especially in boys sports that are non revenue (meaning everything except football and basketball), are rarely full-ride. Most are only partial, like 25%. The average person hears “college scholarship” and thinks that means 100% tuition and room and board, or, “free college”.

But, my guess is, that the parents who are the subject of these articles are fully aware of this. They are also probably smart enough to understand that if they are spending upwards of $20,000 per year on lessons, fees and travel that they could, instead, invest that same money and ensure that their kids college is paid for.

I believe these parents main motivation is their egos. It becomes their identity as much as it does their child’s. They say things like, “It’s his passion, I’m not going to crush it.” When really what they mean is, “It’s my passion, it’s who I am, and I’ll pay anything to keep it going.” And if these parents are thinking ahead to college it’s probably not with the notion of it being free as much as it is the dream of being able to say, “My child got a scholarship to play (fill in the sport) for (fill in the school)”.

It will be interesting to see where all of this new crop of kids ends up in ten or fifteen years. Will the tens of thousands of dollars spent and miles traveled translate into the next Bryce Harper or Mia Hamm? I remember when my son was 13 and we tried out a very competitive travel team for the first time. I thought it was crazy because this team was taking players from all over the city. Nowadays, that’s commonplace. The best player on the team, probably the best in all of San Diego, was a big, strong kid who had a swing like you couldn’t imagine. He had a private swing coach, which was unheard of, and it showed. The ball came off his bat differently than any other player. He was head and shoulders better than anyone there.

When I looked him up years later I learned that he did play college baseball, but for a very small program and he didn’t play much. He didn’t ever get much bigger than when he was 13 and maybe, I’m just speculating, he lacked some intangibles you can’t pay for. Several of the players on that 13 year-old team ended up having far better careers.

I’d like to see someone tell these “over-the-top” parents they know of a financial adviser who can guarantee that if they give him $20,000 per year, their child’s college will be fully paid. Next, tell them they know a private coach who also costs $20K/year who will promise a decent chance at a 25% athletic scholarship. Then report back to us and let us know which guy they called.

Brian Gotta is a former youth baseball coach and volunteer Little League board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels and a baseball coaching book which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at brian@coachdeck.com

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Three Things That May Hurt Your Kids’ Confidence

By Craig Sigl

If you truly want to give your kids a boost to success, the first thing you need to do is stop doing these three things that hurt your kids’ confidence so let’s get right to it with #1.

1. Giving your kid encouragement, praise and cheers ONLY when they do well out there.

Most of us adults have forgotten what it’s like to be a kid. If I didn’t see them for years now, I would have too. Here’s what you need to understand:

When the young performer does well, and you cheer and praise you are giving your approval of what they have just done.

When the kid does not do well, and looks over at the bench at you, and sees your disappointed face and body posture, the child gets the message of Disapproval.

As sports fans and audiences, we are conditioned to cheer when things go right and go “Awww” when they go wrong for our team. Now, this is totally fine when you’re watching your favorite pro sports team. Those players are not your children and they can take it. But not your kids. They subconsciously take it, literally, as a form of rejection, and there’s nothing worse for a kid than getting that from their parent.

What you need to do is be passionately positive even when nothing exciting is happening…but especially when the child has a poor performance of any kind. You do not want your child coming away from a game, meet or match with the idea that your approval is dependent on their performance.

You may just be showing your disappointment in empathy for them but that’s not how they are taking it. This is a huge confidence killer.

2. Telling your kid how they could have done better on the car ride home.

Or otherwise giving unsolicited advice at any time right after a poor performance or a loss. Most often, the best thing you can do as a sports parent, is nothing.

If you ever watch little kids play in the sandbox together and one of them upsets the other, there’s crying and finger pointing for a few minutes and then after a short time, the kids are right back in the sandbox playing again like nothing happened.

Kids have a much greater natural ability to let go of difficult events faster than us adults. We learn how to hold on to things as we get older because we have all this complex thinking that requires full mental resolution on things.

Kids don’t have that yet and can develop resiliency through difficult events, if allowed to. That’s what we should want for them for their participation in sports, life skills like resilience.

To do that, Kids often need the space and freedom to express, if they want to, and then process the difficulty in their own way. Let them. If a kid is holding on to the loss or poor performance and it’s effects for more than a day, then you can jump in and ask if he or she would like to talk or would like some help with their game to improve on the problem.

But, stop jumping in and saving your kid or teaching them how to do it right next time at the worst time, right after the event. That’s what we have coaches for. Resilience is the foundation for confidence.

3. Stop Delivering typical sports cliches and trite sayings that mean nothing to a kid like:

“You just have to believe in yourself”
“When you’re out there, you have to be focused”
“Stop overthinking”
“Just go out there and have fun”

This is my personal pet peeve having worked in this area for so long, and youth coaches are the worst offenders. Think about this, can you explain to a kid HOW to believe in themselves? Can you give them the steps to “Stop overthinking?” Or how about that vague command to “Get focused or get your head in the game?.”

They don’t know what any of that means, let alone HOW to do what you are telling them. And so what happens? You create confusion, uncertainty, worry that they “Aren’t doing it right” and will ultimately disappoint the adults giving them the advice.

So, instead of the kid just playing in the present moment with their body, which they do naturally and don’t have to be told HOW to do, by the way, we teach them with these silly cliche’s to get in their head and their useless fear-based thoughts.

Also, you might think that telling them to “Just go out there and have fun” is good advice and it CAN be…but, it is a risky move and here’s why:

The whole culture of youth sports is organized around winning and how well the kids perform. There’s no question about that.

Coaches, parents in the stands cheering good play and being disappointed in poor play like I already mentioned…and other messages constantly coming at them like:
Did you win?
How did you do?
Did you start today?
Did you score?
How many points? etc.

If that isn’t enough, Kids base their identity on whether or not they get playing time, make the team, get to the next level and even their friendships are centered around this. These messages are constant and everywhere…

and then you go and tell them to “Just go out there and have fun.” They hear that and at best, they forget it after 2 minutes and slip back into the whole performance-centered mentality they’ve been overwhelmed with. And at worst, subconsciously destroy their confidence in advice from you because of the mixed messages.

The irony of of it all is that the parent or coach is giving the advice with the hopes that it helps their performance when in actuality, it hurts it.

Craig Sigl’s work with youth athletes has been featured on NBC TV and ESPN. Get his free ebook: “The 10 Commandments For a Great Sports Parent” and also a free training and .mp3 guided visualization to help young athletes perform under pressure by visiting www.mentaltoughnesstrainer.com