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I Hate To Break This To You, Fellow Sports Dad, But None Of Our Kids Are Going Pro

Flickr / Play it safe centennial

The following was syndicated from Decent Dads for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at

Remember when kids doing little league and peewee football were about confidence-building? Maybe this isn’t a universal truth, but from what I’m seeing kids sports are now all about prepping for the pros. Seriously?

I’ve started to wonder if I’m messing up because I don’t insist my son’s in the most advanced leagues, for every sport potentially available on the planet.

I’ve already been told by other parents that by not putting my kids into the “good” leagues (at single-digit ages), they’ll never be competitive. Never? What the what?

I’ll lump children into these 3 categories:

Fatherly IQ
  1. What is the most important value you think sports teaches your kid(s)?
    Winning vs. losing
    Problem solving/communication
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Exceptional Athletes
Consider that less than one percent of college soccer players go pro, and less than 10 percent of high school players play in college (with oodles of more stats here), and an average high school soccer team has roughly 25 players. I’m not even going to do the math to say unless your little precious is truly exceptional, they ain’t goin’ pro (incidentally I used soccer as it’s where someone has the best odds to make it). If they are, then great — tough ride ahead, but lots of potential.

Interested, With Basic Skills
These are the kids having fun playing the sport. They really enjoy it. They probably aren’t scoring every game (or ever), but that’s okay, because they are digging it.

All The Rest
Kids who don’t care if they miss a game, or play, or whatever.

Anecdotally, I’d argue that somewhere around 60 percent of kids I’ve seen (across all my childrens’ friends, other schools, etc), maybe as high as 80 percent, are in group 2. All the rest are group 3, with a teenie-weenie handful of the group 1. I’d go as far to say I think I’ve only seen one child who I’d argue “has a shot” at being a professional athlete.

Yet “the system” of youth athletics is entirely consumed with getting kids “on track” for the potential.

So my point, if you are wondering, is this: why have we, the parents, allowed a system to evolve that is focusing on the wrong outcome? Why are we pushing kids so hard to be great athletes instead of encouraging them to have fun, build skills, build confidence, and a million other great things that can come from youth sports.

It’s great for us to provide the facilities and resources so that the exceptional few can excel, achieve, delight, and entertain us all (that is what professional sports are for, right?). But to create this hyper-competitive experience at such young ages are, without a doubt, not building confidence, not improving team-building skills, and I’d dare say, not much fun.

But I guess we can’t have a lavish awards ceremony for that, can we?

Jeremy Toeman is an editor for Decent Dads.