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The Cost of Raising Talented Kids

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

Paul Sullivan’s “Five Ways to Think Realistically About Sports and Scholarships” Missed Some Key Issues - That I Experienced from My Years as an Elite Youth Coach

This post was coordinated with Paul Sullivan, Founder of the Company of Dads. Paul is an Advisory Board member of the Modern Husbands and I am a member of the Company of Dads community. I recommend to fellow fathers checking out the Company of Dads.

The school didn't have air conditioning, and the thermometer only went to 100 degrees, so I could not say for sure what the temperature was in my room. I was sitting behind my desk, leaning forward with my hands over my head, fighting an unrelenting pain so fierce that I was nauseous.

I could feel it coming to a boiling point, so I grabbed the trash can and ran down the hall toward the bathroom. Before I could make it, I vomited blood into the trash can.

I finally decided that I should probably see a doctor.

I should start from the beginning.

My wife and I started our family when we were young. To make things work, we both took creative career paths to support our young family, which led to unforeseen opportunities and tough choices.

I was a below-average college soccer player, but I was also the youngest coach in the country at that time to earn the highest education certification from the NSCAA. I had multiple opportunities to be an assistant D1 college soccer coach, but I chose a different path for several reasons.

I was coaching soccer for a small soccer club in Ohio to earn extra money for our family. I continued to grow within the club, taking on various director of coaching roles. Meanwhile, board leaders who were much smarter than me, and fellow directors who were soccer leaders I looked up to, had the vision to grow our club into one of the nation's largest and most successful soccer clubs.

Rose Lavelle at age 11

Cincinnati United is the youth home to Rose Lavelle, one of the great players in the world who sealed the Women's World Cup in 2019, as well as multiple national championships. Each year, dozens of players from our club earn scholarships to play college soccer. On the girls' side, it was the norm for every player on the roster of the top team to have a scholarship extended to them.

It wasn't just realistic for girls from our top teams to earn scholarships; it was an internal expectation.

Each year we release the matriculation of our graduating class on our website. We were proud of this – developing the individual player to be great within a team was our goal. We never made any promises, but it's not hard for parents to connect the dots.

Before I move on, I need to make it clear that players become great because they have greatness inside of them that they work to bring out. Rose Lavelle is great because she is a great talent with an undying passion for the game. She worked her tail off and had two wonderful parents who supported her every dream.

What if Rose’s parents didn't invest the time and money into her game?

All too often the parents of select players are painted as the enemies of childhood fun trying to live their lives through their kids. I found this to be more the exception than the rule. Most parents want the best for their kids, have realistic expectations for what they can accomplish, and can be motivated by the fear of letting them down.

How much would you pay as a parent to see your child's dreams come true? How much would you sacrifice to give your child the same opportunities to succeed as others? How would you feel about yourself if kids with lesser talents were exposed to life-changing opportunities you couldn't provide for your own child?

These are the feelings parents go through who can see for themselves that they have a talented child. This was the case with us, but in a different setting.

What about a child's education? Is it really that much different? The public school system we lived in cut the gifted services when our child was young, so what was my wife and I supposed to do? Was sending our children to one of the best private schools in the midwest a mistake? We allowed them to be successful, and the cost for me was a decade of 80-hour work weeks working two full-time jobs, while my wife supported every other family need while she worked.

I was a passionate teacher who greatly cared for my students. To afford to teach and send our children to private school, I continued to serve in leadership positions in a growing soccer club, where I cared for my players equally. Hope and I were able to do it all so our kids could have it all.

Now back to my visit with the doctor after vomiting blood.

It turns out that chewing 2,000 milligrams of Ibuprofen each day to manage the headaches brought on by stress is a bad idea. It tears up your stomach lining, compounding the consequences of stress too much to bear. I wasn't even 35 years old and had a bleeding ulcer.

While playing in our soccer club, there's never a point that felt abruptly significant or critical. It's not as if there's a scheduled moment of realism that parents face to decide what they can realistically do to support their children.

The process is gradual, and before you know it, you're sucked into a world that revolves around supporting your children, no matter the cost. This was the case for parents in our club, and for years was the case for us. I was living in a world that supported and required extraordinary efforts to provide unique opportunities for our children, despite the cost.

There was never an abrupt moment of truth until I was running down the hall, vomiting blood into the trash can, and by then, it was too late to turn back.


Practical Resource for Parents

As a previous select soccer coach and director and now the parent of a select soccer parent, I've spent plenty of time preparing for travel tournaments or league games. Rather than reinventing the wheel each trip to try to remember what I needed, I had a checklist I used each time. Below is the checklist. Feel free to use it yourself.

Select soccer travel checklist

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