Is it Wrong for Parents to Force Their Kids into Playing College/Pro Sports?

Is it wrong for parents to "force" their kids into playing college/professional sports? I believe so. Before I give my reasons, let me explain what I mean by "force." By force, I mean overly pressuring a child down a certain career path. We've all seen parents who badly desire that their kids become professional athletes. They have their children start training intensely at a young age. They sometimes have their kids sacrifice education, friends, vacation time, etc. for their athletic development. They spend a fortune on equipment, coaching, travel, etc. They sometimes even send their kids to far away academies. Does any kid voluntarily desire all of these things? The answer is rarely. Most of the time, they are pressured by their parents. Their parents mainly make these decisions for them. The children are told they should want these things, so they may go along and agree with their parents, but deep down, they don't want this type of life. Most kids want a normal childhood. They want to goof around, play video games, hang out with friends, have multiple hobbies, and take vacations. 

Don't get me wrong, there are many self-motivated kids who love playing sports and even love training hard. But there is a limit to their intrinsic motivation. They may love to play for a couple hours everyday, but not any more than that. They probably don't naturally desire to train for 30+ hours per week, which is needed for most sports to reach a college or pro level.

Also, there's nothing wrong with discipline and extrinsic motivation. A parent can push their children into training 30+ hours per week if the child truly wants to play college or pro sports. However, it is rare for young children to naturally desire to become a pro athlete. Most young kids don't have a clear idea on what they want to be as an adult. A child's future goals are constantly changing. They simply don't know enough about the world or even about themselves to make these kind of goals. Many college students don't even know what they want.

If it isn't very clear that your child wants to play college/pro sports, you shouldn't force them down that path. You can open these doors for them, but don't force them to go inside.

The best parenting is providing love, care, and guidance while also allowing your children to be themselves and go their own way. No grown adult views themselves as just an extension of their parents. People view themselves as unique individuals with their own goals and personality. You should allow your children to grow up to think this way about themselves as well.

There are too many parents in sports who want their kids to live out their dreams. This is not good parenting. Sometimes it works out well but it usually leads to resentment. If you allow your children to go their own way, they may not go in the exact direction that you desire, but they will be happier, more motivated, and have a better relationship with you, and this is worth it. 

On one hand, you shouldn't be completely hands off regarding your children's future. There's nothing wrong with providing guidance and offering suggestions but there's a fine line between guiding and forcing your kid down a certain path. Like always, balance is key.

My final advice is to give your children a normal, healthy childhood. You can still open doors for them and sign them up for sports and encourage them to work hard, but don't force them down a certain path that they obviously don't want. As they get older, maybe around age 17, then you can have serious conversations about whether they want to become a pro athlete. If they want to, then you can start pushing them harder and help provide the resources for them to succeed. But most parents might say "that is too late! If my son doesn't start training intensely at a young age, he won't be able to keep up with the competition." Perhaps this is true for certain sports/situations. But maybe it isn't. Maybe it is better for your child to choose for himself at a older age, even if this means less training in his earlier years. Maybe developing true self-motivation and a healthier mindset is better than having a head start in training. Maybe this will help him succeed even more than if he was forced to train at a younger age. Even if he fails to become a pro athlete, maybe having a better childhood and a better relationship with your parents is better than becoming a pro athlete.

Perhaps a child is forced to train intensely for their entire childhood and they end up becoming a pro athlete. Maybe this person hated his childhood but loves his current life as a pro athlete. Is this still worth it? As a parent, you may or may not think so, but you can make your own decisions on how to raise your children. I'm just offering some advice.