The Importance of a Backup Plan in Your Child's Future

As a new parent, naturally I find myself wondering about my child's future.  There are so many questions that I have about how my child will grow, prosper and be happy.  For now I can wait until he has walking down and then I will start to wonder about his plans after high school.

In my workshops I always make it a point to talk to children about what they want to be when they grow up.  What no longer surprises me is that so many children (especially children of color) want to be professional athletes when they grow up.  I can see that the rapper-to-athlete ratio has decreased, but it is still troubling to me.  On the face of the argument, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be a professional athlete.  I have nothing but respect for those individuals who have attained and maintained the level of achievement and discipline to reach the pinnacle of that profession - however - I must be completely forthright in the following statement:
The odds of becoming a professional athlete are not in your child's favor.

Now, let me clarify that.  I'm not saying that your child is not good at their respective sport.  Your child could be great at their respective sport, but simply put the odds are not in favor of your child being the next <insert name of favorite professional athlete here>.  Think of it like winning the lottery; the odds are not in your favor in that regard either yet some people do still win.

I cannot and will not stop stressing the importance of making sure that children have viable career aspirations.  I never discourage children from wanting to be an athlete but I have to plant a seed that there needs to be a backup plan.  With older children, especially high school-aged children, I tend to be a little less hugs-n-sunshine with my message.  As much as I lean towards STEM-related career fields I need children and parents to understand that there are other jobs out there that are complete attainable.  You cannot confuse earning potential with happiness.  Prosperity is not proportional to your adjusted gross income.

I see the issue as a dearth of realistic role models.  By and large children don't want to be Sally the small business owner or Mike the Plumber.  The issue is also exposure - not only children seeing these viable role models but also an inherent disparity in publicity received by the role models themselves versus individuals in "pinnacle positions."  Never tell a child they will never go pro - never is a word that hurts.  Be honest with them; let them know there is nothing wrong with trying their best and not making it.  They can still be the world's best engineer, architect, doctor, lawyer, mortician, electrician, actuary or biologist even with a torn ACL.