My husband and I were talking to a dad at the baseball field last week and the dad mentioned that, after his son had made the travel ball team, the dad had pulled his son off the team because the son wasn’t performing in school. The son objected to the generalization that he wasn’t doing well "in school" and insisted that he had merely received a bad grade in one of his classes for the first grading period.
At that point, Dad insisted that even though it was only one class, the one class represented school and, therefore, Son would not be allowed to play baseball if he wasn’t doing well in even one of his classes.
I hear this scene being played out often. The reasoning is that if a child is in high school or college, they will not be allowed to play sports if their grades dip below a certain level. So parents pull their young kids out of sports in order to “teach them a lesson” about keeping their grades up while playing sports.
While I understand the logic behind these lessons I would like to present another perspective.
In the case of the boy in question, he had worked very hard in his sport and had achieved a notable accomplishment – that is, being selected for a travel team that had chosen him to be one of their 12 players out of the dozens that had tried out.
This young man had shown the dedication necessary, the stick-to-it-ness that was necessary to train outside of regular baseball practice so that he could build his baseball skills.
His reward for his dedication and hard work was selection on the team. But Dad took all that away from Son by pulling him off the team. In essence, Dad sent a message to Son that hard work and effort are important in only one aspect of his life. That perseverance and achievement are one-dimensional.
Assuming that the son was correct and that he had made one bad grade in one class, the punishment of pulling him off of a travel team for the entire year, before one game was ever played, was a bit extreme.
If the son’s assertion was correct, that the one bad grade was for the first grading period, that could simply have meant that the child needed additional help in one class. So, Dad, hire a tutor. Or help him yourself. Or figure out if there was something different about that one class that caused the child to perform poorly. Something. . . anything. . . . but don't take away his passion!
I knew a young man who was not the best student. But he played sports. In this young man’s case, it was not simply matter of one bad grade in one class. This young man was consistently a poor student. His mother used various forms of discipline in order to motivate the young man but she never took sports away from. That was the one thing that she felt was important for his overall development.
In sports, particularly team sports, so many lessons are learned: teamwork, working with others, leadership, how to be a good loser and winter, dedication, hard work, people skills, how to deal with adversity, the list goes on. These are life lessons that are just as necessary as academic coursework. Indeed, once a person has moved on from school, these skills can make the difference between being trapped in a mediocre job and getting a line of promotions.
Despite his struggles in school, this young man continued to excel in sports. He became a leader on the team and his teammates looked up to. Somehow, this young man made it through high school while playing basketball. He went on to play all four years in college. Along the way he had tutors and other help.
Years later, that young man became an officer in the military and is now a wonderful husband and father. He is a role model for what moms want their sons to be. Kids look up to him. However, if he had not been allowed to play sports because he struggled in school, he may never have made it through high school or college because it is the sports that kept him going. In fact, I think he would have a very different life today without his career in sports.
As parents, we obviously want the best for our children. And part of that includes having our children do well in school. But we have to make sure we are not shortsighted when we are making decisions about what’s important in life. Beyond academia. We also have to recognize that there are other aspects to life that are equally as important as academic success and we have to be mindful to cultivate those other skills.