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Average Kids

Sports are about excellence. Yet, nearly everyone, by definition, is average. When a child is born they have “unlimited potential” but, in reality they are likely to be no better than average at everything they do. As parents, how do we deal with a kid who is average? Better yet, how do we deal with a kid who is willing to settle for being less than his or her potential, whether that potential is great or even if they can only be average? Should we settle as parents and should we let our kids settle as students, athletes and as people?

Unlimited Potential?

Let’s first put some perspective on being a professional athlete. The four major sports roughly have a total of 3,519 spots: Baseball (750), Basketball (360), Football (1,696) and Hockey (731). Of course there are minor leaguers, college players, guys who get hurt and others that break in each year, but regardless of how you look at it, this is still a very small number. By contrast, in 2002 the American Bar Association had nearly 410,000 lawyers and the American Medical Association had 266,000 members and not all doctors and lawyers join their associations..

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Coach’s Corner, Continued

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, there were about 60 million people in the United States between the ages of 20-35 giving a kid about a 1 in 20,000 chance of breaking into the bigs and that doesn’t include the more than 6 billion people living in the rest of the world. While that’s somewhat better than 1 in a million, being the best in your local little league or making the all-star team still puts any player a very long way from guaranteed stardom or even making the high school team.

The guys that play professional sports are truly amazing in every way. Not only were they the best in their city but they were able to stay in school, not get injured or develop other problems that could derail their opportunity. Not only do they have absolutely ridiculous talent, but they also have a work ethic and determination to succeed beyond what any average kid could ever imagine.

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So, we need to then evaluate what this means to all of our average kids who are participating in an activity where being in the top 1% doesn’t necessarily do you any good. This requires that we realistically look at our kids, their expectations, their ability and help set proper goals based on the assessment. This doesn’t mean that if our kids aren’t going to be professional or even college athletes that they shouldn’t be playing sports. However, it does mean that they should be playing sports for different goals that we can help them realize.

All kids should play team and individual sports. The lessons learned through competition are unarguably life skills that are used in school and later in business and in inter-personal relationships. Working with teammates or being self-sufficient, having mentors and coaches and simply learning to lose with dignity are crucial components of life. Yet, even acknowledging the importance of these lessons, how do parents and kids deal with just being average?

  1. Redefine Success.  Coach John Wooden has as the top building block of his “Pyramid of Success” the objective of Competitive Greatness. This is defined as “the peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best that you are capable of becoming”. This allows everybody to be successful if they are honest with their ability, work hard and are determined to achieve personal greatness. This means that everybody’s success is not measured against anybody else; it is an assessment of whether or not each kid can be their personal best.

  2. Set Realistic and Achievable Goals.   Even if a kid has an ultimate goal of playing professional sports, they have to understand the building blocks to eventually reach that goal. Children crawl, walk, waddle, run and, eventually, they may run fast. The same has to be true for setting goals so that parents can help their kids understand what the “next” step in the progression to becoming a professional, college or even a high school athlete can be. A 10-year old baseball player can work towards fielding

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Coach’s Corner, Continued

    with two hands, extending the bat through the strike zone and beginning to locate pitches. A high school player will need to have different goals that are continuous and achievable steps that lead further down the path of their personal success.

  1. Help Build a Work Ethic.   For most people, it is hard to continually work with maximum effort and determination. However, those are key elements of John Wooden’s Pyramid that will lead to “success”. Without working hard it is impossible to reach your potential and therefore, by definition, you are failing. In law school I had a friend who, while a great guy, would be the first to admit that he wasn’t the smartest guy in the school. Yet, that didn’t keep him from being in the top 10% of our graduating class because he worked harder than anybody else. He now has a great job and his work ethic continues to allow him to maximize his potential. Pete Rose is another example of determination and hustle; he simply worked harder than anybody else and became baseball’s all-time hit leader. Without this type of extreme determination any goal or dream, especially in the world of sports, is simply a fantasy. It is essential that regardless of the potential a kid has that they realize that each decision they make every day to work harder or to give up is a reflection of their own determination and, ultimately, of the success that they will have throughout their life.

If kids learn how to work harder, get along with others and reach their potential through sports, these lessons can be easily translated into schoolwork, relationships, and careers. Sports have become a classroom of life that magnifies the dichotomy of success or failure, hard workers or slackers, winners or losers.


Both in sports and in life, as parents we have to help our kids fantasize about success that is beyond their potential. If we allow them to settle for ultimate goals that limit their productively by setting the bar too low, we have artificially limited their accomplishments. While everyone grows up with differing economic and social limitations in addition to mental and physical capabilities, for those whose greatest goal is graduating from high school we certainly can’t be disappointed when some of them fail at that and very few accomplish anything more.

Setting the bar too high is a much better way to err as long as parents understand the basics of intermediate goals. Although it is likely that the final objective may not be reached, each individual will certainly achieve much more by continuing to meet smaller steps, developing a strong work ethic, and finally reaching John Wooden’s definition of success: reaching your potential.

These lessons are often taught and learned through sports because there are such immediate measures of success and failure. Although all of us and our kids are, by definition, average, that doesn’t mean that we can’t all achieve our goals, learn life lessons, reach our potential, and ultimately, become a success.

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Trivia Test 

We’ve got great Trivia games for beginning to master SportsKids – try our “Title Fight” Sports Grab Bag Game and find the answers to these questions at the bottom.


1) Who was the first to win the LPGA US Women`s Open two straight times?

A)      Marion Hollins

B)      Babe Didrickson

C)      Annika Sorenstam

D)      Nancy Lopez


2) Which was the first Triple Crown winning horse to sire another Triple Crown winner?

A)     Citation

B)     Man-o-War

C)     Secretariat

D)     Gallant Fox


3) Which boxer was known as the "Fighting Marine?

A)     John Sullivan

B)     Muhammad Ali

C)     James Corbett

D)     Gene Tunney


4) Which boxer was known as the "Brockton Bomber?

A)      Joe Louis

B)      Joe Frazier

C)      Rocky Marciano

D)      Muhammad Ali


5) When were the first Modern Olympic Games held?

A)      1896

B)      1900

C)      1904

D)      1908


There are trivia games in general sports, baseball, football, hockey, basketball and “Sports Math” in three different skill levels. Test your sports skills against kids around the world in the SportsKids Game Section.



Answers: (1) C  (2) D  (3) D  (4) C  (5) A

Sports Poll 

1)  Has your kid ever said they wanted to be a professional athlete?

-  Yes

-  No

2)  Which do you feel is the most important aspect of youth sports?

-  Developing Social Skills

-  Developing Athletic Skills

-  Developing Self-Confidence

-  Developing a Work Ethic

-  None of the Above

-  All of the Above

3)  Which of the following is the key aspect of to being a great athlete?

-  Natural Ability

-  Hard Work

-  Proper Fundamental Skills


Last month’s Poll results: 

1)  In which sport do you feel the highest percentage of athletes use performance enhancing drugs?

-  Baseball (45.67%)

-  Basketball (5.51%)

-  Football (30.71%)

-  Hockey (1.57%)

-  Track & Field (16.54%)

2)  What percentage of professional athletes use performance enhancing drugs?

-  Less than 10% (20.47%)

-  Between 10% and 30% (41.73%)

-  Between 30% and 60% (22.05%)

-  More than 60% (15.75%)

3)  Given that Ruth never played against anybody of color, Aaron had 4,000 more AB than Ruth and Bonds likely used steroids, who is the true  Home Run champ?

-  Babe Ruth (37.80%)

-  Hank Aaron (52.76%)

-  Barry Bonds (9.45%)

Cast your vote on these and other sports polls at