Athlete vs Intellect

A 10 year old boy has extraordinary skills in soccer. The boys coach suggests to the parents that their son has advanced skills and could use a higher level coaching to continue growing his skill set. Other parents have seen this boy play soccer and have also spoken to his abilities and there is no question that the boy is among the top local players in the game. The parents don’t think twice and seek out this path for their child.

Another 10 year old boy is home reading a physics book.  When the discussion of time travel comes up in class, the boy makes such a strong argument using facts he’s learned that he wins most of the class over.  But, there is no teacher to parent discussion that this boy has extraordinary knowledge about science and possibly could use more challenge.  Other parents wonder how and why the parents are pushing their kid to know so much.  The boy’s parents don’t know what to do, so they do nothing.

This is an exaggeration of a double standard so prevalent I recently caught myself falling for it.

I don’t have a TOP athlete by any means. But I do have a son who loves sports and has expressed wanting to learn more, be challenged more.  I did not hesitate to support him in a way that fit for our budget and time. I also haven’t felt judged for doing so.

On the other side, my other son is not an athlete but falls into the intellectual type.  He has a unique ability to have a lot of information about a lot of things. What makes that extraordinary is how he weaves it all together. His brain doesn’t compartmentalize information into subjects as much as it stores information in a vault and pulls from it with ease when warranted.

The above physics story is actually about him and (sometimes) instead of being celebrated, has cause problems. I once had an educator tell me that I shouldn’t be teaching him curriculum based topics because we are causing him to be bored in school.

Cool spin.

Newsflash, when your child learns to read independently at 3, you have little choice on how they choose their books at the library and learn.  He is almost the literal definition of self-directed learner. He wants to know it; he learns it on his own.  Seriously, I have no time for that people. (Bitter much still? yeah…)

Ok, so back to my point.

In the same week that I have my son doing extra skill class for his sport of choice, I have my older son telling me he wants to take an AP course as a freshman and I try to talk him out of it.


Partly because being a freshman is a huge adjustment upon itself. His course load will already be more than he’s ever experienced or managed. I also believe that I’ve been conditioned for so long by the education system to not have him do more than what the standard education can offer him.  And finally, high school counts.

While talking to my son about this, he says one thing that makes me realize how wrong I am.

“Mom, if there’s one subject I feel ready for, it’s this one” and he also adds on “Me taking this class is non-negotiable”

And you know what? He’s right. He is so right and I am so mad at myself for forgetting that he is his best advocate.

I’m also so proud of him. Proud for still having the fire, desire, and drive within himself to want more.

Do more.

Learn more.

Being a parent is supporting your children’s life and desires while your thoughts sit on the sideline.

And sometimes?

That’s a lesson they teach you.



4 thoughts on “Athlete vs Intellect

  1. I love this and can’t wait to share it with friends and colleagues. As an educator, I want to jump up and down for your older son and be his cheerleader (oh yeah, and kick some sense into that other ‘teacher’). As a coach, I want to high five your younger son and give him a huge bravo for wanting to improve his skills. As a mom, I want to hug you! We have a huge, time consuming job and you took the time to see and listen.

  2. Excellent – I agree that one of the most valuable things a kid can learn to do is to know themselves and advocate for themselves in whatever way they need to. This is key to emotional, intellectual and athletic growth. I agree, Bravo, Mom! You’re raising them well!

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