Don’t burn them out!

By | December 29, 2008 12:00 am

    Did anyone happen to watch the Heisman trophy presentation back a few weeks ago? 
    Well, I didn’t, but someone told me they thought it would be something I was interested in so with the help of youtube.com, I went back and located it.  It indeed was something I found interesting.  In addition to that, I have another story that will kind of go hand in hand with it. 
    In case you missed it, I just happen to be about to impart to you what happened.  I know that if you are reading this in the sports section, you probably are a sports fan and already know that Sam Bradford, Oklahoma’s quarterback, won the award.  Right?
    If you didn’t watch, what you probably don’t know is they took time to talk about Bradford being a multi-sport athlete growing up.  Now hold on, wait just a minute.  Do you think it is actually possible that someone could win the Heisman trophy without spending all his time concentrating on one sport?  Well, to be honest, I didn’t see it with my own eyes, but according to the fellow who is now a proud owner of football’s most prestigious awards, he played everything. 
    They made a point on the show to ask him about it.  He noted that he did not concentrate on football until he got to college.  He talked about playing basketball golf, hockey and anything he could get his hands on.  He specifically stated that he believed that made him a better football player.  Imagine that. 
    Bradford went on to thank his coaches and parents for letting him play whatever he wanted to play.  He actually believes that in the long run it has made him a better football player not just because it developed more skills, but also because he is not burnt out on the game.  He still loves the game and is hungry to play.  On national television, he encouraged parents and coaches at all levels from youth to high school to allow their players to play as many sports as they want.  Gee, I think I’ve heard that somewhere before.  I don’t mean to brag, but Sam Bradford and I are on the same page where that is concerned.
    Now, here’s another example, but on the other side of the coin.  Ever heard of Elena Delle Donne?  A lot of you may not have unless you follow girls’ basketball very closely.  Let me tell you a little bit about her.
    Last year, Donne was the top high school basketball player in the country, literally.  She was or probably still is really good for lack of a better adjective.  She received just about every high school award imaginable and had scholarship offers from every major college in the country.  She was on the wish list of every college coach in America.  Donne is a 6-4 guard who chose to go to Connecticut, but after arriving on campus early in June, she left after 48 hours.  She no longer plays basketball.  She is now instead playing volleyball for the University of Delaware.  She gave up playing basketball in front of 10,000 fans regularly to play in front of maybe 500 on the volleyball court.  What’s up with that?  The basketball world, especially Geno Auriemma, and her family were surprised. 
    I saw an interview on ESPN where she was asked what the best part of her life right now was?  You know what she answered?  It was simple.  Happiness.  She said she was happy, doing what she wanted to and had a passion for it. 
    I am sad that I am not going to get to watch Donne play basketball (not necessarily for UConn), but someone who is that good at something and hates it, it is sad. 
    Let me give you a little more insight into Donne.  She has had a personal trainer since she was seven.  That’s right seven.  She has played on so many travel teams and spent all her spare time playing basketball.  At that time, basketball was her passion.  She says that around the age of 13, she started thinking maybe she didn’t love basketball, but she fought that thought because that was her future.  She was going to be a star on the basketball court.  She couldn’t give it up.  She said finally after five years, she listened to herself.  She said she over worked herself.  She doesn’t blame anyone but herself, 
Donne did finally decide to try volleyball her senior year and felt a passion for it.  After years and years of spending at least two hours of day playing basketball, she is now playing college volleyball.  Basketball became work for her and now volleyball is her passion.  She might still love it if she had played both. 
It really wouldn’t surprise me in the future to see Donne back in basketball after she takes a break and gets that passion back, but it will be at her own pace now. 
I encourage everyone, parents and coaches, to make sure the passion is still there.  I have said it a million times (well maybe just a hundred), but let them play as much as they want.  Don’t burn them out.  It happens and there are ways around it.  Think of the athletes as young people not as the future of the game or the next big star.  Don’t take the passion away.

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