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Bird at Play: What's a dad to do

His whole life all he's wanted to do is be the next David Beckham. He wears Beckham's No. 7 jersey. He plans to play for the U.S. National team, play on the hallowed grounds of Man U's Old Trafford, marry a supermodel and build a mansion big enough for his parents to live with him.

As parents we want to give him every opportunity to reach his goals, to fulfill his potential, but what is the best way to get him to the Promised Land?

The team my older squad would have played today had we won our first round game in the State Cup impressed me that a majority of these 15 and 16 year old boys were carrying GPAs over 4.0 at schools like DeMatha and Mount St. Joe's. Many of them on their player profiles had as their accomplishments "Maryland Olympic Development Team", "Region I ODP team", and even a few had "U15 National Team Player".

This is a team that four years ago our Wolfpack team held the lead on until we eventually fell 2-1 in the Maryland State Cup semifinal game. In the four years since, they've gone on to win State Cups, Region One League Championship, the Disney College Showcase Tournament and most recently the prestigious Dallas Cup to secure their current Number One ranking in the U.S. I know I'm no Rangers' coach Matt Pilkington, but is this all about coaching?

I'm a believer in allowing players to play multiple sports, holding a "soccer-first" mentality but having flexibility to participate in other sports that my players enjoy. I've had to work around schedules for athletes who play lacrosse, basketball, baseball and ice hockey. But the landscape of sports, especially in soccer, continues to change and the demands on their time more intense.

Every kid on the Olney Rangers will get a shot to play Division I and some will even get a look at the U.S. National Team. But what have these boys sacrificed to get to this level of play? And what do I need to do for my kid if this is truly his passion? He's on one of the top teams in the region right now and loves nothing more than to spend time with his teammates. Do I need to move him to play for Pilkington who also coaches a team his age? Do I take him to the D.C. United pre-Academy Training program so he can be seen? Do I take him to the Baltimore Bays Academy - the number one club in the country - despite the fact that I personally would rather take a stick in the eye?

He likes to play basketball and lacrosse. He wants to play for Westminster High School but if he goes the academy route he won't be allowed to wear his school colors in soccer or play any other sport. And is all this fretting over sports worth the trouble? Shouldn't we concentrate his efforts on his academics where scholarship money outweighs sports by more than 12-1?

Thinking about this is beginning to make my head spin. I think I'll put off making these decisions until it really matters. Like next year when he's 12.

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