Last night, I spoke to a high school coach who was lamenting the academic difficulties of one of his players. The player fell too far behind early in high school, and despite interest from colleges, would need junior college to meet college admission standards. Naturally, the coach echoed an all too common refrain: tough family life, no parental support, no guidance, single mother, poverty, etc.
At once, I thought about a team I assisted when the girls were twelve years old, as they are just completing their first year of college. The team was very talented, among the best teams in the nation at their age group. From this group, the players played Division I athletics this year: two played basketball and one played soccer.
Of the others, one girl quit playing basketball altogether before her senior year of high school and another played sporadically, as she was injured for parts of all four years of high school. Another dropped out of school and echoes the familiar "family problems" refrain. I have no idea whatever happened to the other two players once they entered high school.
Two things stick out about this group. The three players who play Division I now had played multiple sports during high school. One played softball for at least two seasons and one ran track for 2-3 years, while the soccer player played basketball in her off-season. None of the others played other sports to my knowledge.
Secondly, these three had the strongest parental support. Their parents were around, but not overly intrusive. They attended games, but did not berate officials or the coaches. They supported their daughters, but did not make excuses for their mistakes. The others either lacked the support, had family problems or had overbearing parents who made everyone's business their business.
It's interesting to look back after 6 years and see the difference balance, perspective and parental support made in their lives and their successful pursuit of a college education and athletic scholarship. Maybe the three who earned scholarships were the most naturally gifted. Maybe they were just lucky to have parents who cared and a stable home environment. Maybe they were mentally the toughest or the most determined.
With the myriad of reasons which comprise success and failure, it is impossible to pinpoint just one factor. However, I suspect the stable home environment and the parental support created an enviornment which led to success, and I do not believe the influence of parents, positively or negatively, can be overstated.
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