We were sitting around the table eating pizza and enjoying some family time. At some point in the conversation Kelli asked the kids, “So what do you want to be when you grow up?” If there is such a thing as The Book of Questions Most Often Asked of Kids, undoubtedly this question would be somewhere near the beginning of the book. What parent at one time or another hasn’t asked their child that question. Proverbs 22:6 tells us to “Train up a child in the way he should go…”, which in part is instructing parents to figure out what way your child should go. What are they good at? What do they like to do? What natural gifts and talents do they possess? A good parent is constantly observing and considering these questions; maybe not always on a conscious level, but at the very least somewhere underneath the surface we wonder! Which of course leads us to ask the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Another way of asking that might be, “What way do think you should go, so I can train you up in that way!”
What answers do we hope for when we ask our kids “the question”? For most, if we’re being honest, at least a part of us desires our child to say doctor or lawyer, or maybe fire fighter or policeman, or even pastor or missionary. Part of the journey as parents is the uncovering of that future God has for our kids. Lately though I’ve heard young people give an answer similar to my two youngest that day around the dinner table. An answer that concerns me. And what did my sons say they were going to be when they grew up? “I’m going to play in the NFL,” was their answer. I’m sure it has something to do with the inordinate amount of money we spend as a country on athletics. Of course it also is influenced by the amount of media and hero worship today’s professional athlete receives. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a pro football player. I know athletes always want to be the best. This is different. I’m concerned because more and more, young people (and sadly some of their parents) are making plans that count on becoming a professional athlete. Even if they’ve conceded the NFL as a long shot, many are banking on paying for their college with an athletic scholarship.
At the time of this writing, the Seattle Seahawks just signed running back Marshawn Lynch to a contract which pays him, among other things, $12 million in 2015! That’s a lot of money! No wonder young boys dream of one day getting paid crazy amounts of money to, as my wife says, carry around a funny shaped ball. But what are the chances my boys will one day become obscenely wealthy by signing their name to a contract? As my sons shared their future plans I knew the stark reality of what they were saying. After all, my two oldest sons have both been starters on NCAA Division 1 football teams in the PAC 12. Speaking of the NCAA, one author in an article put out by Forbes estimates the value of a division 1 football scholarship in excess of $2 million dollars. I’ve always had a sense for how skewed the chances are. But I was curious, what is the actual probability of a young boy playing college football and one day playing in the National Football League.
There are no exact numbers available, but the NCAA has done some estimates. Unfortunately their calculations don’t include youth football but start with high school athletes. You can see the graph for yourself. While these are only estimations, they are based on the best information available to the NCAA. The bottom line is this, for every 10,000 high school senior boys playing interscholastic football, only 8 will eventually be drafted by an NFL team – a 0.08 percent chance! I never want to tell a kid he can’t achieve his dreams. If a young man wants to set a goal of playing in the NFL, then knock yourself out. My concern is when plans of playing in the NFL (or becoming a Rap star or an actor) become a rationale for not working hard on more traditional options. As parents, if our kids love athletics, we must help them live in the tension of competing hard to be the best they can be while continuing to guide them in the “way they should go.”
Have any of your kids expressed a dream to be a professional athlete (or Rap star or actor)? How have you handled that?