For kids in the world of competitive sports, having a role model in the professional circuit isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Looking up to professionals like Derrick Rose or Venus Williams can motivate kids to work harder toward their goals, from the tennis court to the home basketball court.
Idolizing the pros is one thing, but a surprising number of parents believe their children will actually become pro athletes one day—a belief that is potentially damaging to adolescents at home. According to a recent NPR poll, 26 percent of parents of high school athletes hope their child will go on to be a professional athlete.
Statistically, the chances of going pro for any given sport are laughably small—we’re talking between 0.06 and about two percent, from baseball to hockey. And overly ambitious helicopter parents with delusions of grandeur may be inadvertently sabotaging their kids’ athletic experience.
Youth sports are first and foremost about building athletic health, discipline and teamwork. Pushing the pro angle too hard messes with kids’ priorities—if a kid’s first thought after spraining an ankle on the basketball court is along the line of “I can’t afford to miss practice” rather than getting well, he or she may need to reevaluate the reason for playing sports in the first place.
Children should participate in youth sports because they genuinely enjoy them, not just to qualify for a scholarship or to take a chance at the pros. Sports participation in early life not only predicts physical activity in adulthood, it also contributes to higher average grades and lower rates of delinquency and drug abuse in adolescence. Besides the obvious physical benefits, youth sports teach children important lessons about perseverance and teamwork—lessons that children need to learn on their own.
There are numerous benefits to youth athletics that don’t involve a lifetime commitment to the sport. Even if your child likely isn’t going to become the next Michael Jordan, it doesn’t hurt to shoot some hoops on the home basketball court.