Look For The Passion Signs


The youth sports industry is exploding. It is estimated that  it is a $15B market that includes travel to tournaments and games, private training and coaching, camps, software and apps, clubs, and equipment. It is not uncommon to hear stories where parents of high school aged athletes estimate that they have spent in excess of $50k over the years on their child’s participation in sports.

It is also well documented that most of these parents have a goal for their child to earn a college scholarship. I have seen news articles where parents view that as part of some return on investment that they have planned.

If you read deeper into the statistics, you will see that only about 1% of high school athletes earn  college athletic scholarship. Most would agree that these are not great odds to base an investment strategy on. I find that there are a lot of parents that ride this out way too long. Often into the latter years of high school when the child begins to realize that they are never going to be able to achieve the outcome based goals that their parents have been pushing this toward and they quit. Or, there is a realization that maybe the athlete is just not good enough when they are not meeting the expectation to excel on the high-level club or high school team.

To get to that level, it requires a combination key elements in the athlete. Physical attributes, skills, intangibles, and a passion are all elements that need to be there. Training can improve speed/agility/strength and build the sport specific skills needed. In addition, good coaching and education from organizations like 3rd Element can help build teaming, leadership, motivation, and emotional intelligence (3rd Element) abilities.

However, passion can not be taught. The passion just has to be there inside the athlete. They have to love the game. My observation is that those that do get an athletic scholarship, are truly passionate about the sport and it is visible at a young age. Generally, they are the kids that shovel the snow off the driveway so that they can shoot basketball. They are out on the ice in the park in the freezing rain just because they love to play.  Or, they throw themselves grounders off vacant parking lot brick wall because there is no one to pass baseball with. The point is they love playing the sport and it is what they want to do in their free time.

Ask yourself some questions like the following and you’ll start to see signs of whether the passion is there or not.

  • Does your athlete have a ball in their hands during those times at home when there is nothing planned to do?
  • Are they willing to play under any circumstances (bad weather for example)?
  • Do they watch the sport on TV and have a favorite player?
  • Do they ask to go to watch high school or local college games?
  • Do they wear casual gear representing the sport and their favorite team/player?

Look at the Passion Signs. If it is there and all the other elements align then full steam ahead.

Kids should play teams sports as long as possible. Even if it is not a passion! I am not suggesting that anyone should stop playing if the passion signs are not there.  There are tremendous lessons and skills that they obtain from playing team sports that will benefit them later in life. What I am proposing is that parents be aware of the passion signs and if they are not there, give some serious thought to the overall goal and align the activities if needed. Do not push them away from the sport by pushing the sport at them. At a minimum, have the conversation with the athlete and ensure everyone is in it for the same reasons. This will help maximize the experience of the athlete and keep them in the game longer!

I am a parent of 3, and wish I would have taken this approach.

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