The other day a parent asked me if I thought that her young player had a chance to get a college soccer scholarship. I told her that he absolutely would get a scholarship, a full ride in fact (VIP parking included), to a school like UCLA, Virginia, Duke, Notre Dame or UNC.
There was no doubt in my mind, I told her, that her young prodigy would move from the college ranks to the next level and change the way people watched the game, the same way that Pele, Maradona and Messi have.
After that, I quickly pitched her on my year-round personal soccer training program that would cost the equivalent every month of a mortgage on a decent house in a nice suburb. She asked if I felt like it might be too much…too early for her son.
I told her that if she didn’t start training with me soon enough, her future Messi would fall so far behind that he could never catch up to other players his age and that he would grow up to be an ordinary, miserable adult like the rest of us.
Her son is two years old.
He spent much of the conversation tugging on his diaper (which I think was very full) and shoving most of his index finger into his nose so far that he had to have touched his brain a couple of times.
It was perfect! A free thinker, he would obviously be a striker. I could even cash in again when he gets sold to a big-time European club I thought to myself. I went online to pick the color of my Mazzerati later that evening.
My bubble was burst the next morning when the young Messi’s mom called. She was hesitant about committing to my program. I scolded her for not loving her son, for not having any vision and most of all, for not paying for my entire program up front with her credit card.
She argued that her son should be allowed to grow into the game and to play other sports and pursue other endeavors that might help him develop into a well-rounded adult. I politely asked her what planet she was living on.
Then she had the audacity to tell me something that I haven’t heard in a long time. She said that she didn’t want to push her son too hard, too early and risk burning him out. She said…and I quote…that she wanted him to have fun and to enjoy his childhood.
I guess she won’t have to worry about ever getting a passport, because her son isn’t going to be playing for Milan anytime soon! And those college scholarships? Forget it. He’ll probably grow up to be a teacher, engineer or doctor who plays soccer with his colleagues before work and at lunch and volunteers on the weekends helping youth players.
How many different languages can you say loser in?
Gimmie a break! Having fun? Enjoying yourself? What right did she have to throw her son’s life away at the early age of two? He had potential (with had being the operative word)…but was forced to throw it all away by his mom who supposedly cared about his future.
She didn’t get it at all. There is no such thing as enjoying yourself anymore. Since when has youth soccer been about enjoying oneself? It’s all about bailing on your teammates and transferring to a top flight team weeks before the State Cup. It’s about training every night of the week and traveling out of state to supposedly find competition.
It’s about driving two hours to practice instead of playing for your hometown club. It’s about video analysis sessions, sports psychologists, strength and conditioning coaches and personal trainers. It’s about spending all kinds of money on things that money really can’t buy like talent, determination, passion and happiness.
A lot of people have lost sight of what is important and it’s up to those of us who do get it to bring things back to reality. Your kid most likely won’t go pro, and even if they do, they’ll have to get a real job when their playing career is over. If they do get a college scholarship, the chances are it won’t be a full ride, so put some money away every month and let them choose where they want to go and what they want to do in college.
Don’t buy into the all the garbage that is being spewed out there about how great your player is and how they need to do this or that before it’s too late…it’s all an illusion being perpetuated by opportunists.
Your child’s future is real. Sit back and let them enjoy the ride, because they don’t get a second crack at it. You should know that better than anybody.
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–-Mark Lincir can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org