Golf column: The case for a well balanced child

I was visiting a friend’s house the other night and we starting talking about sports.

Big surprise, right?

Scott Roth, Victory Links Golf Course
Scott Roth, Victory Links Golf Course

We talked about the sports we had all played as kids and in college.

The conversation eventually turned to all of our kids and what they were doing with regard to athletics. Most of our kids were not involved in the variety of extracurricular activities as we had hoped. In my world, I wonder why more kids are not playing golf, in particular. Then we started to discuss why.

I personally participated in almost a dozen different after school activities by the time I was out of college. It was an eclectic mix including (but not limited to) basketball, football, baseball, golf, chess club and band. Mind you, I was not all that great at any of them, but I enjoyed them all.

The consensus of the group was that today’s specialization of sports was at least partly to blame. It seems like kids today need to be in a single, focused activity starting at age four to have a shot at making certain teams when they get older. They also need to be in that same sport for at least nine or 10 months out of the year to be competitive. That may not be true in all cases, but it was for my family and most of the families I know.

Both the young start and the three-quarter year commitment can not only wreak havoc on the child, but the family as well. The havoc to the child would be burn out, repetitive motion injuries and the fact that being specialized in one sport seems to squeeze out all the other activities. The havoc for the family would be the drain on resources and time sacrificed with other children.

Parents play a major role in this “one sport only” mentality.

Many parents, coaches and kids think all this time and effort will lead to a college scholarship or a shot at the big leagues. The cold hard facts are that less than 2 percent of all high school athletes are given a college athletic scholarship (partial or full). Similarly, 98 out of 100 high school athletes will never even play college athletics of any kind at any level. I don’t have any hard facts to back it up, but my gut tells me the same kids who made the pros 25 years ago are the same kids who are making it today. Of the seven-plus million students in high school who play a sport, about 0.14 percent will turn pro.

These facts make a better case than I can for participating in a variety of activities throughout high school and college for 99 percent of us.

I hope we see a trend (sooner than later) when kids participate in at least two or three different activities in an average year.

These certainly don’t have to be athletics. They can be anything from science to soccer. And let’s stop kidding ourselves that all of our kids are in the top 10 percent of the top 1 percent of all the kids who play sports.


Scott Roth is the PGA head golf professional at Victory Links Golf Course in Blaine.