There were two professional athletes. One started learning his game at the age of 7 months and beat his own dad at the age of 8. This was Tiger Woods.
The other played a variety of sports: skiing, wrestling, swimming, skateboarding, basketball, handball, badminton and soccer. He didn’t begin to focus on tennis until his teens. His name is Roger Federer.
Roger’s path to greatness is more common than Tiger’s. There are some very good reasons for this. Those who stay in the same sport, master techniques that work against their current opponents. Those who try many sports, are more flexible as they face new opponents. Those like Tiger, develop their bodies for their sport. Those like Federer, develop all-over physical strength and agility.
In areas like the arts, like music and dance, there is less interaction with others of their age group. Often by the time they could be professionals, they have lost interest and enthusiasm for their talent and want to change fields to be in a more social atmosphere.
Childhood is the time in life when we should allow and provide for our children to try a variety of interests. Most parents want to give their children the benefit of starting early in sports or music. This is good. These activities help children learn how to learn. They learn to listen to and respond to different teachers and different methods of teaching. They learn how to practice until they are good at something. They learn to overcome obstacles by persevering. These are all great benefits of early involvement in sports and arts.
Here are some things to consider:
- Why do you want your child in an activity? Is it because you are good at that or wish you were? You may have a very good reason, but make sure they also want to learn it.
- What does your child want to learn? Can you teach them that skill or can you provide a teacher for them?
- After choosing the activity and teacher, let your child know this is for a specific period of time. Make it long enough that they will learn basic skills. At the end of that time, perhaps a year, reconsider if they want to continue or if a change should be considered.
- Don’t give into your child’s whining or frustration before they have completed the first agreed upon period of lessons. If you do, they will not learn the lesson that anything worth doing, takes practice and determination.
- After a reasonable period of lessons, if your child shows no aptitude or interest in the sport or art, help them chose a different activity to learn. Wanting to play the piano with some musical gift is radically better than forcing a tone-deaf child to learn to read music. The first one will enjoy playing a song he has heard before, while the second one only makes noise and hates it.
- If your child shows exceptional ability in a sport or art and wants to continue pursuing that, don’t force him or her to change. Some children develop like Tiger and can stick with one focus their entire life. You may consider encouraging them to enroll in some other activity in addition to their focus to help them stay well rounded in relation to their peers.
Even if your child chooses to pursue an activity that you don’t enjoy, be careful not to demean your child for his or her interest in it. Find something good about it and be sure to applaud their development. Your boy may become a chef of renown or your girl become a forest ranger. Your reputation as a parent does not rely on your child’s chosen field of interest. But your child’s respect for you as a good parent will make all those lessons you paid for worth your while.
If you like this article, you may like a previous article I wrote on the Benefits of learning music