More Parents Investing in Athletic Training for Their Children
> 6/30/2006 3:05:59 PM

Richard Williams, father of tennis champions Serena and Venus, decided long before they did that his daughters would be sports stars. Serena won her first tournament at age four and went professional ten years later. Today she and her sister are two of the world's most recognizable athletes, and many American parents imagine similarly blessed careers for their own children. In increasing numbers, these parents are turning to paid programs designed to help their children succeed in the world of sports. The percentage of young people who ultimately turn their skill into college or professional careers is frighteningly small, yet the potential for scholarships, advertising contracts, and the exorbitant sums of money which come with prominence in sports are simply too tempting for many parents to resist. 

A recent New York Times article reports on the growing phenomenon of parents who spend significant amounts of money for professional training, often in the form of private lessons or camps associate with or endorsed by big name athletes. Over the years of a child's development these costs can enter the tens of thousands of dollars.Previous commentaries on the subject assert that:

...Coaches who treat young athletes like military recruits can be a big problem. So can athletes who take the game too seriously and play when they’re injured or, as they enter the teen years, turn to performance-enhancing substances that they hear of their idols in the big leagues using.

Accusations aimed at parents who live vicariously through their children are nothing new, and many youth sports are notorious for unhealthy levels of competition, but some see their efforts in a more benign light. One parent asserts:

"It's not just investing in your kids' opportunity. You're also spending time with your kids. You can't measure that."

While the public continues to be captivated by disturbing instances of overinvolved parents who are driven to extremes by an unhealthy sense of competition, such behavior is fortunately rare. Every mom or dad wants his or her child to do their best, but the fact is that any type of athletic fame is extremely unlikely, and college sports tuitions often turn out to be significantly lower than anticipated. While discouraging one's child in the name of lowered expectations cannot be recommended, many parents would be well advised to focus on the communal aspects of youth athletics rather than the possibility of financial compensation down the road. Kids simply deserve a chance to grow up.

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