Monday, November 7, 2011

Dreaming of making it big

A white board in Riley's room where the motivational message changes weekly.

Yesterday the Des Moines Register started a special series examining the pressures, investments and challenges in preparing youth to be the next star athletes, accomplished musicians or top-level students. First up: athletes looking for that competitive edge.

The article generated big interest around here. It makes the point that kids today are led to excel by their parents - who pony up for private lessons, expensive equipment, camps, tutors and more at an early age to give kids a competitive advantage -- and a greater shot at scholarship money and odds of joining the professional ranks. The article made the point that kids don't learn their sport any more in the time-honored ways of champions such as Iowa's Bob Feller.

You might know by now that the sport of choice at the Hoop-lah house is basketball. It is Riley's dream to make it to the NBA. But the reality is that boys have a one in 10,919 chance of making it to the big leagues. Only the best of the best ever go that far.

It is why we spend a lot of time around here talking about back-up plans. I'm a firm believer in chasing your dream when you're young and free from the demands of family and home. My dream was to write for a national magazine. But I didn't think I could do it, so I didn't try. It is one of the few regrets I have. It is why you will never hear me tell Riley to look at the numbers and be realistic. But I do talk about needing a Plan B in case Plan A doesn't work.

Do we spend a lot of money for him to pursue his dream? We do, although compared to what others spend it isn't out of line. We don't pay for top of the line equipment or private lessons. We do pay for club fees and for him to travel because it is necessary for those who want to go to the next level. Is his dream ours? Of course it is. We want him to succeed at something he loves -- whatever that ends up being. But if he wanted to give it up today he could. And life would go on in a new direction. We make sure that he has opportunities to try anything he wants.

But we support this dream because there is something there beyond natural talent. There is a drive, a determination. Something that is rare in most people, let alone a young man.

And that one in 10,919 chance?

When I mentioned it he replied, "Not a problem."

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because I am that one."

I love the confidence! Either way, we're going to have a good time!

You can read the Des Moines Register series here.

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