I have a 5 year old son who is very athletic. I’m a professional fitness trainer – a big part of my job is to recognize and develop athletic gifts ability and develop it. I am even more compelled to do this as a father for my son. For example, my son runs faster than his peers. Speed is a gift. Not everybody can run fast, otherwise, they would. It is not only a matter of will.
When I attended elementary school, I dreaded PE (back when PE meant physical education, not “park it and eat”). I never did half as many push ups or sit-ups as the guy who did the most. I wanted to be the guy who did the most. Running was worse. I was always in the middle of the pack – I hated being in the middle of the pack. If my life depended on it, I couldn’t break free from the middle of the pack. Even back then, I was repulsed by being average. I wanted to excel. And I wanted to be special.
My son runs fast, throws a baseball hard, and has a natural swing always making contact. He moves his feet to field ground balls, not just merely reaches for them. I recognize that he has athletic gifts. I also recognize my role in developing his gifts.
What’s not clear is the process. Baseball is a game of repetition. You played at a high level at USC. When did the repetition start for you? When did it start for Albert Puljols?
God willing, my son has a long life in front of him. He’s good at music and math. He’s patient and considerate of other people. God has endowed him with many gifts. I’m not very good at singing and I always have to use a calculator. I won’t be the one teaching him about these things. But I will be the one teaching him about baseball. And it’s an honor. It strikes something so deep within me that it’s become a calling. I’ve committed to coaching him for as long as he plays the game. I’m also committed to coaching other young athletes. Please share your perspective on when the repetition – the throws, the swings, the ground balls – at what point does this need to be brought to life?
Thank you, Coach Jake.
Tommy Allegood, Woodland Hills
Dear Tommy – Thank you for your letter, your feelings expressed here are very common for thousands of Dads going into their child’s baseball season. First I would like to commend you on taking the time to commit to your son’s experience in his early baseball years.
From your letter I hear two main stories: A. My son has quite advanced athletic skills and B. You were discouraged or not satisfied with your athleticism as a child. So I would like to deal with these two issues separately starting with you the dad-coach.
I. The Father’s experience as a kid. The fact you are dealing with this question is wonderful to establishing your role for your child. But this can be a TRAP. Don’t confuse your experience and try to make up for lost time through your child’s experience. We have to walk onto the field with a sound philosophy to care for your team and establish a facilitator approach as a coach. We help parents establish this through our clinics and website. So, understanding your own wants and needs can help you not fall into the traps for your son’s natural development process. Your goals as a supporting parent is to make sure the game is FUN first.
II. My child’s experience today. When you approach the game of baseball, it is critical to show love for a game that is extremely challenging! Remember it is a game of failure. In order to to have a life-long love for baseball it must be played socially with rules and freedom. At 5 years old your child does not have the maturity to choose his life-long love so we need to introduce him to the sport and other sports. It is our jobs as parents to protect his natural curiosity and spirit to experience life. Wait until he is 14-15 years old to specialize. No scout is watching don’t be trapped!
Tommy your concern and enthusiasm are perfect feelings. Yes I played at USC and it was not until I was 15 years old did I develop the drive to pursue baseball. I played other sports: basketball, football and even gymnastics that helped my dexterity and built up my physical body to become an advanced baseball player. Without those experiences and challenges, especially as a gymnast, I don’t think I would have chosen – on my own terms – my life-long love for baseball.
My simple answer is that all kids are gifted! Some at sports, some at compassion. If you specialize now before your child can experience and participate in other sports then your not letting them grow their own affinity and your doing a disservice to your child. New challenges help kids grow physically and mentally and work new muscles. Be a loving father, and encourage during challenging times and always lift your child’s spirit as your best friends did for you.
Coach with Passion!