A litmus test for parents of would-be pro athletes

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I recently had dinner with a friend who’s plugged into professional sports. We got to talking about the across-the-board athleticism in pro sports.
Take football: all the different sizes and body types mask the underlying reality that even the heaviest lineman moves like a cat. Many of these guys — guys who to the untrained eye spend their Sundays wantonly hurling their hard-plastic-clad bodies against men of similar heft and stature — were all-state basketball players in high school. That is, they’re not only massive and powerful, but also elite athletes by any measure.

The conversation then turned to this Belgian boy who was on track to graduate with an engineering degree in the Netherlands by age nine or ten. He’s headed to the United States now to start working on his PhD in the field. An elite intellect by any standard measure.

Put these two very different cases together and one might construct a model for which parents with dreams of their children being professional athletes might reference for their own and their kid’s benefit.

Maybe graduating from college at age 9 or 10 is extreme, but I would say that, in cognitive terms, an athlete good enough to eventually go pro would be like a kid capable of graduating from college around the time most others get out of high school. That is, their talent is is glaringly exceptional by age 14-15-16.

I concede that late bloomers exist: the old saw about Michael Jordan getting cut by his high school basketball team as a sophomore being the go-to example. But these sorts of aberrations are far more rare than even the athletic geniuses who bloom early or in the middle of the bell curve.

So I ask you, parents: is your kid the athletic equivalent of a teenage college graduate? If not, maybe take a step back and let them enjoy their youth with a bit less pressure.