Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bend It Like Lucy

Last night, I received the call that every parent dreams about for their aspiring child athlete.

“We’re interested in your daughter playing for our team.”

I was speechless, and we all know how difficult that is to achieve.  I was woefully unprepared for this invitation, an invitation that we did not pursue, mind you.  I took a deep breath.  I focused to control my voice inflection.  I needed to speak deliberately while maintaining a conversational tone.  I didn’t want to seem over-anxious, or allow my personal pride in my daughter’s skill to cloud my professional judgment of her marketability.  It’s show time.  My kid is counting on me.  I found a kitchen chair and forced myself to sit instead of pace the room with nervous excitement.

Another deep inhale, exhale.  How could I not be just a bit excited?  The future was now so bright, I had to wear shades.  I could visualize the four jewels of the celebrity endorsement dollar:  shoe, car, clothing-line, soft-drink.  Personal trainers and coaches, international tournaments and development camps, the endless dietary supplements, and sports psychologists – this would be our new reality, and it would all culminate with…dare I speak it?...a scholarship to a four year university.  It’s the Holy Grail of competitive youth athletics.  A free ride to the college of my – her (excuse me) – choice was on the horizon, there for the taking, and the coach/recruiter voice on the phone held the key.  Show me the money.

At last, someone outside of our Circle of Trust had recognized her talents with a soccer ball and two feet.  This was sweet vindication for all those hours of backyard practice, the early morning games, the countless orange slices and endless parade of leaky juice boxes.  The days of chasing her friends on the field instead of the ball seemed so very distant.

Did I mention Lucy is 6 years old?

Interestingly (or sadly) enough, this is a true story.  I did take a call last night from a coach who sees Lucy’s potential in soccer, and wants us to start thinking about travel teams and coaching options in the future.  For all you cynics out there, this was not a ploy to convince me to part with any of my hard earned money for an ‘exclusive’ camp.  All indications are that this was a sincere head’s up for us to begin thinking about where Lucy may commit her time over the next few years, not today, but in a few years.  I appreciated the call, and we will think about it.

I am left with one simple question, however – isn’t this too soon?  While in the abstract, tracking kids into competitive sports programs at such an early age is easy to dismiss, the emotion surrounding The Decision carries more nuance when it is your little angel being praised and groomed for potential success.  As an adult, I know that every kid will not get a trophy forever, but what if my kid could, with a little hard work and commitment, be one of the few that did?

I feel like the Tiger Dad. 

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