Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Schlereth Wins One For Dads

We all know them. Maybe you are one. Stage mom, sports dad, psycho...whatever you want to call them. Parents who push their kids to exceed are labeled that dad or that mom whether it's justified or not.

With all the horror stories of parents who have gone too far in their pursuit to turn their kid into child prodigy, it's really not even socially acceptable to talk about your own kid's success. Co-workers roll their eyes when you tell them you can't work on Saturday, because you have to be at junior's tournament all day.

And don't even think about actually cheering for your kid while you're at the game, do you actually have expectations?

There's a fine line between a parent's expectations and reality, and ESPN's Mark Schlereth found that convergence neatly intertwined last Friday in Phoenix.

Schlereth is a former NFL offensive lineman. His gnarled knees are the product of life in the trenches with the Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos, but he has three Super Bowl rings for his sacrifice, and he's now an NFL analyst for ESPN.

I'm sure if you asked Schlereth he would tell you he would trade all that for the gift he got last week when his son, Daniel, made his big league debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The elder Schlereth (or Stink as he's known, although I prefer Roc Hoover) recounted the events this morning on Mike & Mike on ESPN Radio & ESPN2.

It was last Thursday night, and Daniel had just finished an outing on the mound for the D-Back's AA affiliate in Mobile, Alabama. They traded texts and jabs, and then Mark put his cell phone away in his Colorado home.

The cell phone rang about 30 minutes later. It was Daniel. Last year's first round MLB draft pick out of the University of Arizona had himself just got the call of his life. He was going to the show! Mark told Mike & Mike that he and his son both started crying at that moment, but it was what Daniel said next that made the proud pappa say "I will take that moment to my grave".

Before Daniel hung-up the phone he had a message for his dad "I know I never said it, and I know I never talk about it, but thank you for all that you've done. Thank you guys, my family, for all the support", he said. "For all those times you whipped my butt, for all those times you yelled at me, for all those times you made me go out and work...Thanks."

Talk about the call of a lifetime.

Don't get me wrong. Just because Mark Schlereth's kid says he actually appreciates the fact that his dad's prodding was actually a good thing, doesn't mean that every parents' tactics are perfect.

I worked with two teams at Notre Dame, and I got to know a lot of coaches, players and players' parents over a span of nearly ten years. I heard the stories from both sides. Parents who nagged DI coaches about playing time, about being too negative with their child prodigy. Parents who called the press box during a game to find out "why was that scored an error and not a hit"?

That wasn't in high school, that was at Notre Dame.

No, not every parent is perfect. HBO's Real Sports With Bryant Gumble is running a feature this month on the subject of overzealous parents.

My point is, not every parent who actually holds their kid to high standards in the name of excelling at sports is the anti-Christ. Look at every athlete who's made it to a high level and more times than not there's a parent who's pushed them along the way.

I had a buddy in college who was brilliant. He wanted to be a doctor, but his dad was a lawyer. Dad said he wouldn't pay son's college tuition unless he followed in his footsteps. Son's now a lawyer rather than finding the cure for cancer. Todd Marinovich's dad wouldn't let him eat a Big Mac or any junk food while he was trying to build "the perfect quarterback". Marinovich made it to the NFL, but famously faded away due to personal issues that included drug abuse.

Which is worse?

Is it so wrong to tell your kid that, whether it's in the classroom or on a field, whatever you do, do it all the way. And by the way... occasionally I might hurt your feelings when I say something you don't want to hear, but I'm doing it to help you.

Why is it that when you kick your kid in the butt to make him study hard for a test you're being a good parent, but when you kick him in the butt to get ready for a game you're overzealous?

I have a 13-year-old son. He plays sports. He's competitive. He's also a straight-A student. He's just as mad when he strikes out as when he gets an A-minus on a test. Whether it's pushing a kid to hit the books for trigonomics or pushing a kid so he can hit triples, they both require hard work and a kick sometimes.

I think the real self-test is simply this: Is it your dream or your kid's dream? Whether it's sports, music, engineering, or art, if it's your dream the kid will eventually lose interest and all the kicking in the butt will just lead to bigger problems. If it's your kid's dream then kick that butt as far as it can go, and someday he might thank you for it.

Mark Schlereth has toed the line of expectation and reality. His reality is that his son is now in the big leagues, and it came with the expectation that he work hard to get there (with a few kicks in the butt along the way).

Happy Father's Day Mark.

Sean Stires is the co-editor of collegebaseball360.com. His email address is sean@collegebaseball360.com.

No comments:

Post a Comment