Blubaugh: What if parents were as obsessed about their kids’ schooling as their kids’ sports?

Small talk amuses me. Depending on age, it might start with health. So many ailments. Or, more likely, it starts with career. "What is it that you do? Wow, that sounds fascinating.”

Inevitably, it moves on to kids. I find it endlessly interesting what we talk about and what we don’t talk about regarding children.


We love to talk about extracurriculars. Hobbies like scouting, dance, music, art and, of course sports.

Yep, Junior made the travel team. Yeah, we’ll have to take out a second mortgage to finance it, but he’s just so gosh-darn talented. The college scouts are already looking at him.


Really? At age 11? That’s wonderful.

We talk at length about the various teams and sports and leagues our kids play in. We discuss how they are doing, commiserate about expenses, compare stories about coaches and officials and laugh at all the crazy parents (not us, of course).

One thing we rarely talk about, though, is how our kids are doing in school.

We think nothing of boasting about when our kid gets moved up to the next level or makes an impressive play of some sort or wins a championship. But who talks about it when their kid gets moved up to honors classes or asks a really smart question in school or aces a big test?

Is it because sports parents knows their kid’s position, can tell you where their kid is supposed to be on the field during any situation and probably have a good idea of their kid’s stats, but might not know exactly what said kid is learning in math or reading in English or studying in science?

I’ve often wondered how different our culture would be if we reversed parental roles as regards academics and athletics.

Think about it. Parents currently send their kids on their way to school in the morning, have little or no contact with them until late afternoon. Maybe they then ask the kids some perfunctory questions about their day, possibly helping with some homework or maybe showing no interest at all.

Meanwhile, parents are oh, so engaged in their kids’ sports. They coach. They work fundraisers. They intently watch practices. They show up for every game, often recording. They communicate frequently with coaches. They bark instructions, sometimes contradicting coaches, and then they go over their kids’ performance ad nauseum. They regularly remind their kids they’ll have to do better than that if they want to play club ball or high school ball or, of course, get that full scholarship to State U.

What if, instead, parents simply sent their kids off to practices and games, didn’t see them again until after, asked perfunctory questions or maybe showed no interest at all in their athletics?

Meanwhile, in this scenario, parents are oh, so engaged in their kids’ schooling. What if they went to school each day and watched their kids every second, from taking tests to asking questions to interacting with other students? What if they were constantly texting teachers? What if they went over their kids’ every assignment ad nauseum? What if they regularly reminded their kids they’ll have to do better than that if they want to get straight A’s or get a perfect SAT score or, of course, get that full scholarship to the prestigious private college?

Think that would help kids do better in school?

Actually, it almost certainly wouldn’t.


In fact, the authors of “The Broken Compass: Parental Involvement With Children’s Education” found that most forms of parental involvement, like observing a child’s class, contacting a school about a child’s behavior, helping to decide a child’s high school courses, or helping a child with homework, do not improve student achievement. And, in some cases, they actually hinder it.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Studies have shown that some 70 percent of kids drop out of organized sports by their early teens, a major reason being that they find it too stressful.

Certainly a healthy balance of parental interest in both school and sports would be infinitely preferable to an unhealthy, unbalanced obsession with either.

But if you can make small talk about where your kids are going for their next travel tournament or how many goals they scored last game yet don’t know who their teachers are or how they did on their last test, don’t fret too much. You’re probably stressing them out about sports, but maybe you’re letting them find their own way academically.

Better they quit the team than quit school. There’s a lot more scholarship money for academics than athletics anyway.

Bob Blubaugh is the editor of the Carroll County Times. His column appears Sundays. Email him at bob.blubaugh@carrollcountytimes.com.

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