RAISING A SUCCESSFUL STUDENT/ATHLETE
The practices, approaches, and methods described below reflects how I've chosen to go about things, often based upon the suggestions of a variety of experts. Whiz Kis Sports is recommending that you consider what information below may best apply to your situation, and if you try to emulate any practices I've described below or anywhere on this website, you are doing so at your own risk. Whiz Kids Sports will not be responsible or liable for any injury or harm sustained as a result of trying to emulate what I have described or made available for you to consider.
PHASE 1 First Things First
Prospective parents should put forth due diligence to learn the information that is out there on what to do and what not to do, in order to bring forth a healthy baby. Ideally, the gathering of information should begin before the child is conceived. There is a lot to consider, and the dad absolutely also needs to join the mom in diving into the learning of the info, as two heads are better than one. Obviously, consulting medical professionals is very important, but taking the time to gain information, ie; searching Health Tips for Pregnancy over the internet can be very helpful as well. Being informed, while being advised by medical professionals, allows you to have a deeper understanding of what you’re being told to do and warned not to do. You also may want to ask your doctors questions about things you’ve read, which may prompt conversations on some topics the doctor may not have brought up had you not inquired. None of this, of course, guarantees that everything will turn out great during the birth, but it is best to put the odds in your favor.
As a husband, I had to keep the big picture in mind, electing to place “keeping my wife’s stress level down” as a high priority, and not get bent out of shape if I didn’t agree with her food choices or some other practice. Hopefully mom and dad can communicate effectively and under control. My suggestion for husbands is to be proactive, ie; make healthy food choices available by preparing the meal. Hopefully both spouses recognize how to address major issues, ie; universally agreed upon things the prospective mom should stay away from, like; consuming alcohol, smoking, and being around people smoking, while pregnant.
Some websites you may want to consider checking out for health tips for pregnancy include:
Getting a head start in planning to baby proof the house is also a good thing. There are plenty of very thorough checklists online. When the baby is able to crawl, you want him/her to have freedom to safely move, explore, and to fully develop. Installing gates that can keep a baby within a particular room, off the stairs, etc… can be important items. Some websites you may want to consider checking out for baby proofing suggestions include:
Being well versed before the baby is born, in knowing the many developmental milestones and related phases of maturation, can also be a very important step in enabling parents to be proactive in facilitating the development of a well adjusted and well rounded child, and can also help a parent recognize any delays in development. The website “cdc.gov” has a very detailed list for the developmental milestones.
For parents like myself, that are very anxious to do things with the baby that can possibly promote future athletic success; the website “udemy.com” has a video course called “Developing Kids Motor Skills and Coordination from 0-6 years”, that does a great job of putting in perspective what is appropriate and effective for parents to do in regards to putting the children in position to maximize their athletic talent. I’ve taken the course, and I was extremely impressed with it. During the early years play time is vital. Check out this article on Boosting a Baby's Development with Age appropriate Play.
PHASE 2 – 0-6 Years
Once the baby is born, my suggestion is to allow the newborn/infant to have appropriate interaction with others, respecting whatever guidelines are put forth for the infant’s health and safety, ie; keeping the baby away from pets, visitors with infections, etc… The websites listed earlier address this area. Through; informed and conscientious interaction, care, play, etc…, the baby can progress successfully through the developmental milestones. Parents should understand that school is now in session for the child, since this is where the first lessons are learned. The child is the student and those providing primary care are the teachers. Caregivers that are informed as to the developmental milestones have a good idea of what is appropriate interaction during the child’s particular stage of development, and know how to construct an environment conducive to the child developing properly, ie; during the time when babies want to pull themselves up on something, put the baby in an environment where there are a variety of things to safely pull up and climb on. Parents should also have this in mind when they are choosing a daycare, but this does not absolve them from their responsibility to be primary teachers of the child, and for their home to be an environment that is intentionally arranged with the child’s development in mind.
When babies are not allowed enough interaction, ie; are repeatedly left alone to cry, then at some point, they learn that their cries won’t result in getting their needs met. This can help produce a personality and disposition consistent with that, not to mention that a baby left alone repeatedly, is not learning and developing as he/she should. One of the reasons our son would cry was that he was bored. We chose to look at it as him having an active mind that needed stimulation, rather than feeling he would be spoiled if we gave into his crying. Giving him access to a different area, toy, etc… may have been enough to alleviate the boredom. My wife was very instrumental in helping me see that it was necessary for me to give appropriate interaction, because admittedly, after a day at work, I often didn’t feel like it. I believe it also helpful for the child to have experience responding to a masculine voice, not just mom’s voice.
By the end of the 0-18 month period, the baby should be independently mobile, and able to explore their environment. Many reach this stage by the end of the first year, but it is a mistake to try to rush a baby through the developmental stages, ie; try to force a baby to walk that should still be crawling. Prior to their first birthday, with the physician’s blessing, babies may be enrolled in classes that start them toward the process of swimming, ie; “Water Babies” class, which, of course, requires the parent to be in the water with the baby.
18 Months – 4 years
After the child is able to adequately move and control the body, during this stage of development, the child is able to be eased into performing some motor skills that relate to sports, ie; catching, throwing, striking, etc…, as well as motor skills like jumping from both legs, hopping from one leg, and being agile while running. Once again, the “Developing Kids Motor Skills and Coordination from 0-6 years” course gives very detailed information.
When the child is 3 and 4 years old, this is also when the child is eligible to attend some type of school. Far in advance of this time, parents should have checked with the school to see what students should know when they arrive the first day. This, of course, allows parents to properly prepare their child.
Parents and students must understand that school is a place for learning, and should be treated as such. I teach school at the elementary school level, and I wish I had a dollar for each time I heard a parent tell their child to “have fun”, as they dropped him/her off at school at the start of the day. When parents are invited to come to the school for “Open House”, “Meet the Teachers”, “Parent/Teacher Conferences”, etc…, the parents should show up, and see how their child is doing, and respond to the child accordingly.
4 Years – 6 Years
During this period the parents should continue to work closely with the school teachers, to be sure the child is putting forth a committed effort to be a good student. The child should be making progress in execution of motor skills/sports skills and at some point be ready to enter organized sports. Once again, you may refer to the online course I alluded to previously. At 5 years old, typically there are T-ball (baseball), Pee Wee Soccer, and Pee Wee Basketball leagues to join. If able, I suggest allowing the child a formal introduction into the sport and some practice in the activity prior to the first day of practice. This, obviously, gives the child an edge. Ideally, the parent should try to make it possible for the child to get some very good coaching in the fundamentals of the sports he/she are participating in. This may also mean enrolling in camps or even small group or individual sessions. Learning the fundamentals at an early age is extremely important!
When the child is attending school and playing a sport, he/she is a student /athlete. Ideally, all the work and attention to detail to put the child in a position to be successful in both endeavors has paid off. Providing support for a child that is already headed in the right direction is a lot easier than doing so for one that is behind and struggling. It is also easier to get the child to “buy in” and take a genuine interest in school and athletics when they are a source of fun and adventure for the child. Ideally, through sports, school, church, etc…, the child will also gain friends and continue to develop socially. Performance in elementary school can set the tone for what follows. Our son was given the award as his elementary school's exemplery student before leaving to go to middle school. He also earned similar academic honors in middle school, and was able to secure a big academic scholarship that helped pay the bill for the private high school he later attended, allowing him to compete in the WCAC with the likes of DeMatha, St. Johns, Gonzaga, and Good Counsel.
PHASE 3 – True Student/Athlete
Consistency is important when making the students accountable for putting forth a committed effort in school. If you’ve let them get away with blowing off homework assignments, not turning in projects, etc…, in elementary and middle school, then it is very likely that it will be a struggle for the student to develop the consistent work ethic needed to realize their academic potential throughout high school, since even more home work will be required. Ideally, prior to college, you want the child to primarily be a self starter, in regards to academics. This is essential if the student is to realize his/her academic potential in college. It is tough for this to occur, however; if during high school is the first time when the student becomes serious about academics. An internally motivated student that doesn’t need to be poked and prodded to get work out of him/her, is also better prepared for life after college, regardless of what field is to be pursued.
At some point, typically, interest in the opposite sex will enter the picture, and that will provide another area of life that the student/athlete will need to be able to manage. I suggest that parents support the student/athlete’s desire to be well rounded, which includes social endeavors.
I’ve taught at the elementary school and middle school levels, and I’ve coached many years at several high schools. I’ve seen countless youths that were outstanding athletes, but who never became what I would call a “legitimate student”, and because of that, their opportunities to play sports at the high school and/or college level were drastically affected. Not to mention the financial benefits (scholarships)that were not earned due to a lack of academic accomplishment. Parents and student/athletes also need to realize that if the student/athlete is barely academically eligible to play sports in high school, then they won’t be anywhere close to eligible to be accepted into many colleges. Everyone can’t be the Valedictorian, but everyone can put forth a strong effort, and that willingness to put forth the required effort can make all the difference as the student/athlete is trying to be successful in life, career, family, etc…
I like to see kids, for as long as is appropriate, play a variety of sports, rather than being limited to participation in one or two sports at an early age. I also feel it can be extremely helpful if early on, the athlete can get some coaching from some highly qualified coaches, especially with the more complex sports skills, ie; hitting a baseball, and football skills that involve hitting, ie; blocking and tackling. I believe it is beneficial to formulate a rough year long schedule that provides some time for the kid to prepare for the upcoming sport, ie; a couple of weeks to go to the batting cage, field balls, throw, etc..., before showing up for the first day of baseball practice.
At some point it likely will be best to focus on the one or two sports that the student/athlete is best suited for, and to consider whether playing travel/AAU ball is a good move. Joining the right travel program can be extremely beneficial, but it is up to the parent to put forth the due diligence to find the right programs for their kid. This includes camps and clinics. There is a danger, however; in "over committing" the kid. A kid that is participating in a sport where the coach has physically demanding practices likely will have some easier training days when necessary, however; if a parent has also signed the kid up for Personal Training from some place, another team, another sport, etc..., this can lead to "over-use" syndromes, injury, etc... Not to mention, be mindful to maintain the academic commitment. Once again, settling for less than a strong academic commitment is asking for trouble down the road.
Football is hugely popular in this country, and is a vital part of the lives of a lot of athletes. We all know, however; that it is getting a lot of negative publicity in regards to the possibility of causing damage to the brain. Our son really wanted to play, but I did not allow him to play tackle football until he turned 10 years old. Before then he played flag football. At 10 years old I was confident he was physically ready for the contact from kids his age, and I felt he still had plenty of time to gain enough experience to be able to play successfully in high school. I did my homework and found, what I felt, was the right tackle football organization for my son, and I also signed him up for a full contact football camp. You, of course, want your kid taught sound fundamentals in all sports, but in football, the safety element makes this even more critical. So once again, thoroughly check out an organization before committing to it, and for practices, when you can, bring your lounge chair to practice, and make sure you approve of what is going on.
Typically the first year of high school, you'd like your kid to at least make a good impact on the JV or Freshman team, and going into the sophomore season have a chance to at least have a reasonably good role on the varsity, though some may be better served by playing JV as sophomores. Hopefully by the end of the junior year, the kid is able to have enough good film/performances where colleges have demonstrated interest, if not having made offers. Obviously, if this happens prior to the junior year then that is great. All is not lost, however; if your kid blossoms later. Our son, from youth football thru his high school freshman season, had always been the quarterback, and one of the stars of the team. In his sophomore year he decided to switch to receiver, to give himself a better chance to get on the field for varsity. There was a learning curve, dropped passes, dropped punts, etc..., and a lot of time on the bench. Late in his junior year he began to blossom, and it wasn't until his senior season, where he blew up. He was the team's MVP, made a lot of big plays, and was 2nd team All-Conference.
When considering colleges, the academic scholarships our son was offered allowed us a lot of flexibilty, and helped offset the disadvantage of not having great film until his senior year. There was even a Division 1 school that our son could have attended at no cost because of his academics, and the football coach liked his film, and said he'd love for him to join the team. We settled, however; on a Division 2 school that we felt more confident that our son could get a fair shot to get on the field his first year. They didn't offer full rides athletically, but after adding the athletic money they could offer, to the generous academic money they offered, we can afford the rest. Things worked out, as our son managed to work his way into the starting line up by mid season of his true freshman year, and his grades are good, Praise Jesus! College teams are in the business of getting as many good players as they can, and there often is uncertainty as to just how a kid will fit into a program, until the kid shows up and gives it a shot. You want to feel that the coaches believe in your kid, but that is only a foot in the door. I'll spare you the details, but my son was very much blessed with circumstances that permitted him the chances to get on the field to show what he can do, and I give God all the glory for that.
Different coaches may do better jobs than others at helping their high school athletes get exposure that may lead to athletic scholarships. I maintain, however; that it is the job of the parents and student/athletes to take the lead in this area, and also involve the coach if possible. Where a lot of people make a mistake, is to totally depend on the kid performing well enough athletically, that a Division 1 school will offer him/her an athletic scholarship that will totally cover the cost of education at that school. While that is certainly possible, I maintain that if the student/athlete is an outstanding student, then there are a lot more opportunities out there, but it requires a consistent and committed effort to fully take advantage of this.
An important element is to have a realistic opinion of what collegiate competitive level is appropriate for the particular student/athlete, and then hopefully identify some good programs at that level. It may be appropriate for the kid to redshirt the first year, and gradually get into the mix. In football that is common, and nothing is wrong with that. This even teaches delayed gratification, which, of course, is a good life lesson. Going to camps at the colleges being considered can be very beneficial. If the colleges are aware of your kid, you may get an invitation to their camps. Many "Prospect Camps" are very inexpensive. If you have the means, it can also be a very motivating thing to go to one or more camps at a major college where the camp lasts more than one day, and you get to see the sport at an elite level, regardless of whether or not the school knows your kid exists. Besides, at some camps at big schools, a lot of smaller schools are allowed to have coaches attend as well. If they like your kid, they'll talk to you, invite you to their camp, etc...
To help our son get exposure we signed up for NCSA, and it resulted in a lot of communications from a lot of schools. I also emailed schools directly, informing them about my son, included his film, etc... Once again, this requires due diligence. In this age of technology, the student/athlete’s highlight film can be in front of hundreds of coaches if the effort is put forth to do so, but once coaches show interest, families have to begin crunching numbers and hopefully, if the student/athlete is a senior, the family has done what is necessary to apply for financial aid, various scholarships, etc…
If the athlete is a particularly good student, scores really high on SAT, etc…, the academic money offer may be so good, that you may be able to tell the coach that you don’t need any athletic money, and you just need him/her to tell you if you can join the team as a “Walk On”. When given an academic scholarship, however; the student has to maintain a particular level of academic performance to keep the scholarship. This should not be a big deal though, because the student just needs to apply the same effort and commitment to academics, that earned the scholarship in the first place.