In 1998, Denzel Washington starred in the movie “He Got Game”. The movie was about a father (Jake) who was serving life in prison and his son (played by Ray Allen). The son, Jesus Shuttlesworth was an outstanding basketball star. A prominent university wanted him to don their uniform. They went to great lengths to convince Jesus to play. They even enlisted the governor who was a university alumnus. The governor was willing to grant Jake parole if he could convince his son to commit to the university. In the end the son signed with the university and Dad went back to serve his time.
Imagine having a child that was extremely gifted and the governor of the state called you personally. Now let’s snap back to reality. Most of our children are as talented as we think. My father realized early on that he should perfect his skills as a carpenter and not bank on me being drafted in any professional sport. Fortunately for me, Daddy did not try to live his life through me. He allowed me to be that kid that warmed the bench. He knew that when he got around the fellas he would not be able to join the conversation when they talked about their son’s athletic prowess. Nope, athletics was not my strong suit.
My mother always encouraged me to do my best. She still has a picture of me when I played little league baseball. Although she never came to a game (o be honest, I really didn’t want her to come to my game just to see me on the bench), she constantly let me know how proud she was. Her encouragement did have its limits. Baseball was okay to play, but football was out of the question. Running around bases and catching a ball was better than me be crushed by a man-child. To her chagrin, I was playing baseball when a man-child slid into home plate and broke my leg.
As time moved forward, I became a father. My firstborn was a girl. As she grew, I assumed that she would probably be too cute to want to participate in sports. My assumptions were half-right. When she was six, she wanted to play soccer. That lasted for about two weeks. After a couple of practices, she gracefully bowed out. Her brother, who was four at the time, nagged me to let him play, however he was too young. He would practice with the team and he was quite good. I talked with the league commissioner and he gave him a waiver to play. He excelled at soccer. He also played football, basketball, and baseball.
Between the ages of 4 to 14, I watched his development. He played some sports better than others. Also during this time I noticed that some parents were sending their athletes to summer camps, paid for personalized coaching, and provided them with only the best equipment. This support was costing the parents thousands of dollars. As a parent, I had to ask myself if my son had what it takes to be Jesus Shuttlesworth. How far am I willing to go to help him become the best? Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas’ family made tremendous sacrifices to ensure that Gabby had every opportunity to succeed. Their sacrifices paid off. However, there were many other girls in the camp that didn’t make it to the Olympics. I wonder do their parents feel that the money, time, and effort were well spent. Only those parents can answer that question.
As parents, we have to make life changing decisions. Maybe instead of concentrating on what we want, we should get to know our children. When we get to know them we can help them to discover their purpose. And by the way, their purpose may not be sports, and that’s okay. Imagine what it would be like for an entire generation to live most of their lives in pursuit of their purpose versus following someone else’s dream. Not only that, think of how much time, money, and effort could be saved and used for something that is sure to be successful.
Just in case you were wondering, we have three children and none of them received an athletic scholarship. Man, am I glad I didn’t sign them up for AAU sports.