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Should I Push My 10th-Grader to Play Sports?

By Joe Connolly, Consulting Educator

Question:

My oldest daughter doesn't want to get involved in sports. She is in the 10th grade and I keep telling her, if you don't try things out now you are going to regret it when you get older and you will wish you had done it. I think the problem is that she is just plum lazy. She used to do soccer, basketball and tennis, and I was hoping she would keep it up because there are scholarships for stuff like that. I told all my kids that I'm not paying for their college. Nobody is paying for mine except me. Am I being too pushy? Should I just leave her alone and let her do whatever? I don't mean to be pushy. I just keep bringing up the subject and I want her to do these things now while she is young. We didn't have all these options these kids have today.

Answer:

You present many issues in this question. Regarding your two questions specifically, the answers are Yes and No.

First, are you being too pushy? Yes, you probably are. But don't worry too much about that; that's what parents do! And 10th grade girls especially don't appreciate it when we are pushy. We just need to be careful about being so pushy that we push them right out the door.

On the other hand, leaving her alone to do whatever she wants is not effective either. The trick for parents is finding the fine line between allowing our teens to become skilled at making their own decisions, while still providing enough boundaries and guidance to keep them safe and healthy.

Ask yourself if you're being reasonable about your expectations for your daughter. You mention that you want her to play sports in high school because there are athletic scholarships available for college and you have no intention of paying for her to attend college. The reality is that a very small percentage of high school athletes receive athletic scholarships.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, there are more than 7 million high-school athletes. Only about 1.2% will receive athletic scholarships to NCAA Division I or Division II colleges. And, those that do receive scholarships rarely receive scholarships that will pay for all their college costs.

Please keep in mind that those students who do receive athletic scholarships have likely been playing their sport at a very high level for many years. A large majority of athletic scholarships are offered to students in their junior year of high school. If your 10th-grade daughter is not currently playing a high school sport, the likelihood of receiving an athletic scholarship is even lower than 1.2%.

On the other hand, most colleges give out money in merit-based scholarships and need-based financial aid. Merit-based scholarships typically result from a solid academic record, and many families qualify for financial aid. At most colleges and universities, some kind of financial assistance is awarded to more than 50% of their students.

There are other ways to help pay for college as well. Many students will choose to go to a two-year, junior or community college while saving more money to earn their degree from a four-year college. This can save thousands of dollars. Your daughter may also decide to attend a state school instead of a private school, which is certainly less expensive. She will still receive a quality education.

Instead of being so "pushy" about playing sports in school, you might ask your daughter what she is passionate about. Perhaps she is interested in drama, or writing for the school newspaper, or perhaps it is soccer after all! Help her to cultivate that passion. Support her in the activities or interests that make her happy. As you instinctively realize, suggesting she might be lazy won't get you very far in a conversation.

When you can help her develop her passions, you'll find your relationship will improve and she won't be as upset with you when you are pushy with her about something she loves to do.

Continue to provide boundaries for her and keep her safe and healthy, but also let her explore the world a little. Let her make a few decisions so she can learn from them. It's not the easiest thing to do, but in the long run, may be the most effective.


Joe Connolly is the author and creator of 3 STEPS to parenting teens and the One Minute Rule. One of the founders of Good Parents, Inc., Joe is a sought after speaker of family topics and is widely known for his expertise and powerful speaking on parenting. Joe has been a featured speaker at Stanford University's "Stressed Out Students" conference, the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, California State Senator Jackie Speier"s "Girls Day" and at corporations including Cisco, Hewlett-Packard and Genentech. Joe is the dean of students (K-5) at the Harker School in San Jose, CA. You can learn more about Joe and the services he provides at joeconnolly.org. Joe can be reached at joe@joeconnolly.org.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

03/5/2008:
"I think all students should play sports."
09/11/2007:
"I think that is exactly right. If you want your daughter in a good school you are gonna have to pay for it. It seems to me like you don't care to much about your daughters future and byt telling her that you arent going to isn't gonna push her into looking how to get it, it will push her away from college and make her think that since she may not be able to pay for why go? She is younge and needs help on getting ways to go! As her parent you must help her, it is your job!"
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