As a Dad to two boys now aged 12 and 14 I wrongly assumed that they'd become tennis players. I didn't have any great ambition for them to do so but I thought it would be a likely outcome bearing in mind my background. However, they seemed to be far more attracted to the team environments of football, cricket and basketball and perhaps didn't want to be constantly compared to Dad and measure up, and so they've made their choices.
My sporting experience then with my sons has been supporting their development and growing passion in the aforementioned, having always remembered the advice of an old friend Billy Milton who once said to me, 'Mike, just pay attention to what your kids are passionate about.'
So how do you measure passion for a sport? It doesn't always come of course as some lightning bolt out of the sky (the first time they try it for example) but can grow over time. One measure worth looking might be the intrinsic motivation shown to simply master something that's important to them, regardless of external measures of success - rating, rankings, results.
So the next obvious question is how do you measure intrinsic motivation?
Well, for me an obvious answer is to observe how much time a young athlete spends outside of the recognised formal coaching/competitive environment, simply in play, experimentation or observation.
How much time spent mucking about, trying stuff?
How much time watching the sport on TV/You tube etc?
How much time spent hitting against the bedroom/garage wall at home, or down at the club?
How often are you the parent dragged out to kick, feed, hit, throw, or shoot a ball with them?
How many baskets of serves are hit without prompting, how many practice sets are played without parental/coach organisation.....?
How many games of 'pick up' played at the rec ground in the village?
How many hoops shot in the snow?