I had the good fortune to meet a young lady and her family during my journey through this project.  I had met her brother first and he was quite pleased with his younger sister’s athletic accomplishments.  He really caught my attention when he started talking about scholarships.  It seems his sister had been approached about playing DI tennis by a college coach.  Now let me make this clear:  a student must graduate from their junior year and pass the NCAA clearing house before they can be offered or accept a legitimate DI athletic scholarship. A student or family can say the intend to go to a DI college but the NCAA has very specific rules regarding athletic scholarships.

 

                I was invited by the parents to come to their house.  We had a very good conversation about athletics, coaches, tournaments, and showcases.  In my consulting business, I call it Mental Health Consulting; I frequently talk to parents, coaches, and athletes in youth sports.  What struck me about this family was the closeness they had sitting around the kitchen table.  You could feel the honest caring for their daughter’s health and well being.

 

                This spring she is going to play tennis against the boys.  Here is how I know she will be successful.  I watched her play one match.  Even before the match started I could tell by the way she carried herself walking on to the court she had class.  I turned to her mom during warm-ups and said, “She’s going to win.”  Even after she lost the first game, the outcome was obvious.  But then she did something quite memorable.  She bounced the ball on the side edge of the racket not to show off but to help her concentration.  You can see DI athletics pretty clearly pretty quickly.  She had a steel-eyed determination that was a joy to watch.  There wasn’t any show boating or any flare-ups of behavior.  When she missed a shot, the mom and the grandparents sat and watched and cheered nicely.

 

                 You see, you can’t buy DI talent.  You either have it or you don’t. True athletic talent is evident very quickly after puberty. There are however, many late bloomers out there who need time, encouragement, and repeated opportunities to compete in games to achieve their level of excellence.

 

                 The parents did not send her to Florida to live and play at an academy.  I am sure there were overtures for her to attend such a place. These academies are prevalent in all sports.  Do players and families have all the facts needed to make a decision on where and what kind of atmosphere is best for their child’s long term health and development?

 

                They remained grounded and so did this young athlete.

                As she plays against the boys this spring, she is accepting a challenge based on competition, not gender or what is popular.  Instead of fearing competition, or trying to stack the deck to win, she embracing the challenge of finding out how good she really is in this arena. Notice I did not say who is the best.  The truly great athletes play against their sport.  The opponent is merely an obstacle or a measuring stick as to how well they can play and compete.  She has the look and pace of a class human being, and I am sure she will be successful in whatever endeavor she chooses to accept in her journey through life. Not just because of talent. It is way more important for her future success to have an excellent work ethic, a grounded base of integrity and humility, and a passion for life and fun.
                                              Now isn't that what is really important?