Question: I recently went to a high school basketball game and as I was leaving, a player’s dad caught up with me and asked: “What do I do? My son doesn’t like basketball anymore. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t like much of anything anymore.
“He doesn’t do things with friends. I don’t even know if he has any friends anymore. He isn’t happy and it looks like he is sad and disappointed all the time.
“He used to love basketball. He was so good. He was always the best on his team, and it didn’t matter who his team was playing against, he dominated.
We often talked about college scholarships and even playing pro ball.
“Now he’s going into his senior year, and isn’t getting much playing time.
What happened? What do I do?”
Answer: Unfortunately, I have heard and seen this story before.
The cause is hard to face, but there is still the possibility that his future can be brighter.
Let’s look at how too many young kids fall into this funk. There are several things that contribute:
• Too much parental pressure. Look out, be careful. Parents need to stop emphasizing and becoming consumed with college scholarships and playing pro ball. Our kids can feel the pressure, and they learn how to protect themselves. They try to guard themselves against disappointment and failure. Many times the desire to give all they’ve got diminishes as soon as they realize there are other players out there that are just as good or better. They figure if they didn’t try their hardest, they won’t look so foolish when they come up short. To fail going half speed is easier to take than failing going all out.
• When they realize that other kids are catching up, or even passing them up, they often retreat. The momentum has changed hands, and they see the writing on the wall. The challengers spend more time practicing and trying to improve, while early achievers are threatened by the realization that they are being passed up; so again, their “fall” can be explained away because they didn’t try that hard.
• They put all their eggs in one basket. Early on, the focus can become too isolated on one sport. Other sport skills and long lasting relationships are compromised for the sake of focusing on one sport.
So, when they aren’t the best on the team anymore, or in some cases don’t even make the team, they have very little to fall back on.
Is there hope?
Of course there is, but the ball is in your court. They need two things from you now:
First, they need affirmation. They will melt into your arms if they feel your unconditional acceptance. They need to be released from the bondage of thinking they have disappointed you. They need your unconditional love and approval rather than your dreams and plans.
Second, they need your encouragement. They need to find their own dreams and challenges. They need your guidance and maturity to go out and find new things to do. It’s never too late for fun and friendship. They need their mom and dad back, not the “coach, trainer and agent.”
Even at 17 years old, they need to feel like a kid again.
If you have questions or comments for Tom Kuyper, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.