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It's All Relative

As my kids have gotten older and established themselves as legitimate athletes in their respective sports, I am suddenly being asked the question: Is the one as good as the other relative to their sport? The first time I was asked the question, I was left speechless. If you knew me, you would find that hard to believe. I truly did not know how to formulate the answer. Because they do three vastly different sports, I never thought to try and compare them.

It has always been important to me as a parent that my children do sports. I didn’t care what they did; they just needed to do something. From the time they were young, they were swinging various objects from bats, golf clubs, to tennis racquets. We live near the coast so they all had to become good swimmers. They played soccer and some basketball. My son even dabbled with flag football. There were few untried sports at our house. However, I did not want them to pick a sport until 1) they had tried it all and, most importantly, 2) they were old enough to have the work ethic to commit. My oldest two were almost eleven when they decided to do only one sport and, begrudgingly, I let my youngest focus solely on tennis at nine (very old and late by tennis standards for sure!).

So many parents have their kids doing “their” sport at three, four, five years old. I just wanted my kids to find something they were passionate about; something they were willing to work hard at even if they weren’t going to be great at it. I have seen so many parents over the years push their kids into a sport, see the dollar signs of a potential professional career, or even the “free” education a college scholarship would bring. Needless to say, I don’t know where a good many of those kids are now, but it’s not doing what daddy thought they should.

My three children chose three very different sports: Baseball, water polo, and tennis. The only commonality is the fact all involve some sort of a ball. People thought we were crazy. I think we were lucky. Growing up, my brother had to swim because I swam. It was the only way my mom could get us to practice with my dad working. It worked out fine for him as he went on to swim at a D1 college. But I know he would have liked to have done different things at the time. He hated being in my shadow. I quit swimming due to a chronic shoulder injury. After that, my brother rose to the top in the sport and moved out from under my shadow. I learned from my own youth that, if you want everyone to be happy, you have to let them find their thing and have their own success, which they define based on their goals and ambitions...not mine.

I know that we have been extremely fortunate that our kids all share an amazing work ethic. They are driven and determined to succeed. I truly believe this is a result of the fact that our first priority was instilling a love of their sport in them. It is so much easier to get a kid out the door to practice when they love what they are doing. Even then, they are teenagers and sometimes they just want to do nothing. It’s those days that as a parent you don’t regret the gentle nudge - and occasional shove - out the door because you know in their heart of hearts they really don’t mind going to that practice.

So how does a parent compare three children with highly different sports? They don’t. I explain that each of them has had their own successes. While a sport like tennis with its endless points and ratings systems does make it a little easier to qualify a child’s standing, there are so many other contributing factors that go into answering that question. I simply answer by saying: “Thank you for thinking (insert name here) is good. And, I don’t know because it’s all relative.” I think they are all successful in their own rights. They are all leaders in whatever it is they are doing. And they have all received recognition within their sports for their accomplishments. I don’t know how you can compare beyond that. If I think I can, I’m suddenly reminded of something, and then I’m stuck on pause again. For that, I am actually grateful. It is truly all relative.

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