The Ghost of Athlete Past

I have three sons.  Two of whom are current high school athletes having successful high school careers.  Both have potential to move onto college and play the sport they want, if they choose that is the path they want to take.  Both are considered very hard working kids in their sports by their coaches and teammates.  They get that from their Mom, I was more of a gamer type.  Their Mom was the type of player other teammates hated playing against in practice because she never took a play off.  It made her very successful as a college athlete.  She has passed this down to our sons.  I’m grateful.

You see, anyone who has been around high school athletics will recognize this, not all kids give their all.  Many times you have kids on these teams with super high potential and athletic ability who seem to just piss it away for no real reason.  They don’t work hard.  Coaches play them anyway.  They screw around in school because they think their future is playing professional sports, or that colleges won’t care they’re a crappy student.  People treat them differently because their the local star of the moment.  They float through life believing this will never end.

Flash-forward 10 years and they are usually sitting in the stands of the same local school’s games carrying around their regret like a backpack.  Working at the local factory or some crappy sales job, talking about how they were so close to ‘making it’.  But they didn’t.

I wish I could send these kids a Ghost like in the movie The Christmas Carol.  A Ghost of Athlete Past to show them where they are and where they are going.  Where they are truly going is not where they think.  It’s not dropping out of college because they didn’t prepare themselves. It’s not sleeping in their parents basement at 28 because they can’t find a job to pay them enough money to have their own place.  It’s certainly not sitting a some random game at their local high school talking to anyone who will listen how they were better than the current version of themselves on the field right now.

I know people like to blame coaches.  The coach should have been able to get ‘that’ kid to see how they were throwing it all away.  Some blame the parents for not disciplining them enough and showing them how their path was broken.  I tend to blame the collective.  All of us who each, at one time or another, gave the kid a pass.  Well, he’s the best player, you need to put up with his attitude.  We won’t win with out him so, you’ve got to put up with him not practicing hard.  Well, we need him for this Friday’s game, so let’s just give him a passing grade ‘this’ time.  We’ve all failed him.

We all had the chance to make this kid a great kid.  Great athlete, great student, great person.  Instead we filled him with regret that he’ll have to carry around for a lifetime.  I lifetime of regret at 18.  It’s heavy at 18, and it only gets heavier each year after.  I love athletics.  Athletics have given me a ton in my life, as they have for so many people in our society.  It breaks my heart to see a young kid getting ready to sling that backpack on, though. To know you’re looking at someone who has already seen their best days at such a young age.

Just a reminder to give it your all today.  Some will only have one shot. Did you do everything you could have done to be ready?


2 thoughts on “The Ghost of Athlete Past

  1. I was really thinking you would apply this to the working world. With the way that sports are structured now, your statement at the end that some will only have one shot is true in regards to sports, but not life.

    I’ve also known, mentored, taught some of the kids you mentioned who are infinitely full of potential but just don’t seem to get the connection that should be blatantly evident in the lives of real sports greats; that hard work is what made them great. I’m not talking about the amazing talents who dropped out of high school or college because they were recruited by professional teams, but the real greats who came up from nothing and worked and worked and worked to become the best. Their secret and what all youth of today need to learn and emulate is the joy of work. And were does that come from? HOME.

    It doesn’t take a village, it takes two committed parents who are not afraid of trends or being seen as different; who have established rules, expectations and most importantly consequences. It takes parents who will push their children to develop their talents, because even if the child succeeds and makes it to the big leagues, there is no guarantee that they won’t get sidelined with an injury before establishing a career.

    If the parents do their job correctly, the child will not only have a back up plan but the skills to succeed in life, not just sports. All the things you mentioned are applicable to the working world. How many employees do you see who could easily qualify for a promotion but just aren’t engaged or have no internal drive?

    Wouldn’t it be great if they could also have the ghost of their future visit them and show them the positions they could achieve if they would just be committed?

  2. I love this post. My children are slightly older – and it’s heartbreaking watching the teenagers go through this. It’s so easy for them to take the easy road, and it’s hard as the parent to strike the balance between letting them make their own mistakes and compelling them to do what we know is best for them. We talk about it taking a village to raise our children, but IMHO we need the entire village to adopt this attitude before we’ll see a better work ethic from our young people.

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