Sports and School: Requiring More from Your Teen

Does your teenager have a passion for sports that he puts above all else? Does he excel on the court or field but is failing in the classroom? Dr. Phil supports having dreams, goals and passion, but says it's a good idea to have a backup plan and to keep education a priority. He has advice for finding the balance between your teen's passion and their academics: Playing sports is a privilege, not a right. "You have to make him understand that it's a privilege to get to play the game and you earn the privilege by doing those things that prepare you for life," Dr. Phil tells one mom whose son would rather play basketball than study. "If he truly loves the game, he will work for the privilege to play it. And if he doesn't truly love the game, he'll never make it anyway so he better get the education ... You've got to teach him that you earn the right to do the things you value in life," says Dr. Phil. Education has to come first. What happens if your child has an injury, ruining their chances of a sports career? They can't fall back on college if they failed in high school. And if your child is really good in his sport, and if a scout notices and offers him a college scholarship, he can't go if he failed high school. Responsible parenting has to be a guilt-free zone. "You cannot be held hostage. You've got to find the strength as a parent to require more. It's your job to make him study ... I don't want him to turn around and look at you when he's 25 and working some unskilled job where he has no future, no way to take care of himself and say, 'Why didn't you make me study when I had the chance?'" Dr. Phil tells his guest. Be consistent with your discipline. You may not feel like fighting with your son today, but you have to take the hard line to make him understand how the real world works. Dr. Phil tells his guest, "It is your job to blaze the trail and teach him to respect himself and to hold himself to a higher standard. You've got to find some strength to do this. We cheat kids if we don't teach them how the world really works. If he doesn't do the work in college, they will kick him out. If he doesn't do the work on his job, they will fire him. He needs to understand that when you chose the behavior, you choose the consequences." Show your child the facts. Look at the statistics: A high school senior's chance of making it to the NCAA is one in 35. If he's still playing in the NCAA when he's a senior, his chance of getting in the NBA is one in 75. And a high school senior's chance of going directly into the NBA is one in 3,400. There are less than 5,000 jobs in all professional sports, period. Odds are, he's going to need real world work skills, and he's going to need an education to get those. Find out what your child's currency is. If he doesn't earn the grades he's capable of, take away the TV, let the air out of the basketballs, or pull him out of the games. It doesn't mean crushing his passion; it means teaching him to work hard for what he wants. If you child makes good grades, then he can enjoy the privileges he loves. Take it from the pros. Vince Carter from the Toronto Raptors says, "Get your priorities straight. Education is first. I chose to go back to school and get my college degree. Why? Because it's not guaranteed that you'll become a pro basketball player. Have a plan B. Get your education." Donovan McNabb from the Philadelphia Eagles says, "Always remember, you always have to have something to fall back on and education is the first thing."

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