Youth Sports Training- Prepare the Child for the Path, not the Path for the Child

I have a favorite quote that is particularly applicable when it comes to training kids.

“prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child”

The reality is that you will not always be there to pave the way for your child, fix things, argue with coaches etc. etc. Kids will grow into adults and experience grumpy co-workers and mean bosses. Constantly insulating kids from difficult situations and consistently cleaning up the mess they create defeats the purpose of sport.

Sport is about learning to succeed and to fail, not just to succeed. Sports should primarily provide life lessons. If the life lesson learned from sport is that Mom and Dad can and will fix everything, later life will be difficult. If the lesson is that school is something you have to do but sports are what is really important than, be prepared for some really big problems down the road.

Youth sports has become all about success and scholarships instead of about learning and sportsmanship. I have some bad news for all the parents out there. Your child more than likely won’t get a scholarship. If he or she does get a scholarship, they probably won’t make the pros. I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade, I’m just a realist.

I have more bad news. Those parents who consistently prepare the path for the child by confronting teachers and coaches, changing teams, changing leagues and changing schools are making life-long losers out of their children.

Remember the purpose of sport is to teach kids about success and about failure. The failure lessons may in fact be more important than the successes. Everyone wants their child to succeed, it’s universal, it’s part of being a parent. However, it is when we attempt to alter the normal path that we screw things up. Protecting your child from difficult situations only delays lessons that are very necessary. Failures experienced at twenty one are far more painful than those experienced at ten or twelve. You don’t do your child a service by protecting them, you do them a disservice.

Remember you are a parent. You are not a friend, a manager, or an agent. Your job is to help create a competent, capable adult, not a dysfunctional child.

My mother had a wonderful saying on our wall when I was a child. It said “Children learn What they Live”. The same one hangs in my kitchen now. If you consistently prepare the path for the child you postpone the inevitable. The key is value education. Teach your children what is really important. Teach hard work, commitment, loyalty and dedication.

The next time you make a decision involving your child’s sport or sports, ask yourself “Am I preparing the child for the path or the path for the child”. This simple step will guide your decision making every time.


7 Responses to “Youth Sports Training- Prepare the Child for the Path, not the Path for the Child”

  1. mboyle1959 Says:

    No idea, sorry.

  2. Do you know who originated the aphorism about preparing the child for the path?

  3. […] Youth Sports Training- Prepare the Child for the Path, not the Path for the Child […]

  4. That is one of the stupidest things I have ever heard on a number of fronts. 70% of people don’t even fit the formula ( 220-age). It is inaccurate and arbitrary. Besides the fact that you child is being punished for being fit. I would approach the principal about this and if you don’t get the policy changed I would file a formal protest with the school board or school committee. That is a testimonial to stupidity.

  5. I feel like I live and breathe what this post is about everyday. As a coach and physical education teacher I constantly strive to provide my athletes and students with the skills of their sport and curriculum lessons, but for me what really drives me is knowing how the lessons that are learned in the process of developing the skills is what really is going to last and put them in a better place to be successful later in life. This, though can sometimes play with your psyche as a coach because parents want better performance fast, or scholarship offers to show up and I know that it does not usually happen that way, but it’s also difficult because the performance I most care about is that of the life performances of the child (don’t get me wrong I want to bring the best athlete out of them too) but that can take a while to show in a so to speak ‘big way”.

    When talking with friends I used to play sports with or talking to friends or strangers that have played a sport period, each and every one of them shares the joy or trials that they have experienced and how it has influenced and prepared them better for things that have happened in life. So the value should surely be placed on giving the child/teen the skill sets (life skills, or sport skills) that will prepare them to handle situations that they may face. Equip them with the skill and let them learn by experiencing what they should do with them, and just be there supporting them for when they need a little motivation or guidance.

  6. I love this post, Mike. As a parent, coach, trainer, and new IYCA YCS, it really strikes a chord in me. I am, at this moment, experiencing a dilemma with my child’s school. Though I am thankful that we are one of the two remaining states (along with our native Massachussetts) that still requires PE, I have some issues with (a) the fact that it is a graded class, and (b) a specific criteria being used.

    Forgetting that I don’t think that middle school kids should be graded on their level of athleticism, the schools policy is this: 2 or three days per week, the school’s PE class is a ‘CV Day.’ The kids need to run for 20 minutes, wearing heart rate monitors. If this were the end of the protocol, I’d be content, and even find the practice responsible. However, the kids must achieve and maintain an average heart rate of 160BPM, and are graded on this ability. If the child cannot maintain an average of 160BPM for 20 minutes, s/he loses a letter grade.

    This hits home for me, both because of my background, and because it directly affects my son’s grades for all the wrong reasons. My son is 13, and is a three-season athlete for his school. He runs cross-country in the fall (and is the #2 7th grader), wrestles in the winter, and runs track in the spring. Given all the training he does, he has a difficult time getting to and sustaining a 160BPM run for 20 minutes. He just brought his grades home Friday – all A’s and B’s… and a C+ in physical education.

    Obviously, less conditioned children are rapidly able to achieve 160BPM and beyond, and, given their slow recovery time, could walk-run their way to an A. Several parents, however, have gone the route of asking their pediatrician for a note which claims that their child has asthma in order to have them excused from CV Days.

    This practice makes me crazy, Mike. If it isn’t bad enough that nearly every state has cut physical education, if it isn’t bad enough that ‘coaches’ punish their players with exercise (by making them run sprints or do pushups as negative reinforcement), if it isn’t bad enough that ‘coaches’ stand on the sidelines of youth athletic events and scream at their players – apparently forgetting that they are children… what needs to happen to change this?

    I agree wholeheartedly in preparing the child for the path. It is the reason I parent and coach, and the reason that I am pursuing the IYCA curriculum.

    What do we do, however, with a situation like this? When schools punish students academically for being active, healthy and fit, how do we change it?

    Andrew Eaton

  7. Todd Heller Says:

    Youth Sports, Early Specialization, and the Parents is a topic I’m passionate about and it’s not so much in a good way. Bottom line: Parents are just out of hand. Coach Boyle just wrote a great blog and made some tremendous points and I wanted to build on them as well. I kind of vented a bit on this topic on the forum.
    But ATTN: PARENTS – If you are parent, and your son or daughter play a sport(s) and it doesn’t matter how awesome or athletic your son or daughter is…remember these facts…
    “The National Federation of State High School Associations reported that close to 7.5 million students competed in high school sports last year, a new record. Now, according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, colleges awarded athletic scholarships to 2 percent (that’s right 2) of these same athletes.” I think the lesson here is honesty. Be honest with yourself as a parent, other coaches, and most importantly, your son, daugther, nephew, cousin, a player you’re coaching, whatever. Let these youth STUDENT-atheltes grow and experience the true awards of participating in sports. After working this summer at the Ripken Baseball Academy, the Ripken brothers explain it quite simply and all this youth stuff can be summed up nicely: “Celebrate the individual.” Your son isn’t Brett Favre, your daughter isn’t Mia Hamm, let them develop as athletes and experience what the game has to offer them (team cohesion, work ethic, passion, dedication). Why? Because when that 98% of students that don’t make it pro goes out into the real world and gets a job, they can relate experience from sports to real life. In sports, when a team comes together and works hard and gives everything and then succeeds or fails, those lessons learned from the ups and downs trickle over to real life. Let your child remember those important lessons and not “daddy always screaming at me for striking out and ruining my college and pro opportunites”
    Back to the scholarship aspects, I find something to be pretty amusing when you break it all down. I’ve seen and heard of parents just paying stacks of money for specialized coaches or lessons, professional highlight tapes, trips all over to speak to D1 schools when their child isn’t even a starter on the varsity high school team as a junior. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but let’s wake up here a bit. A local athletic director here in Delaware was qouted on this subject, “In their quest to package their kid as a superstar, what most parents don’t understand is that except in the the case of football, most colleges have only TWO OR THREE athletic scholarships avialable in each sport” (2 or 3 spots vs. 7.5 million?) “There are parents spending upwards of $50,000 to get their kid a $1,500 scholarship.”
    I could go on and on about this subject, and I’m thinking about writing a long article about my feelings and how we need to get back to the basics working with the youth. But in the end, BE HONEST. I’m not saying there is zero hope for your child to make it to the pro’s, not at all. But there is a line that crosses being healthy and supportive and then into an area of just insanity and I think that’s where most have drifted over to.
    Coach Boyle – awesome points on this blog. happy holidays to everyone.

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