By Marc Ryan

Houston (CBS HOUSTON) – JJ Watt took to Twitter Monday night to express sentiment advising parents of sports’ youth that has since been “retweeted” or “liked” over 65,000 times.

While the nature and origin of the tweet will likely never be known, we can surmise that something seen or experienced by Watt recently motivated the message. It brings to light an interesting question; is a singular sports focus, one which may/not become an obsession, unhealthy for our children? Or is balance, a sampling from entrees across life’s categorical spectrum, truly the key to a happy existence?

John’s Hopkins University says the following of life balance on its web site: “In order to optimize functioning, it is necessary to find a balance between the various roles one plays. A student often wears many different hats: partner, worker, friend, classmate, etc. Often times these roles are in conflict, and a student must be adept at attending to a variety of factors and assessing priorities. School-life balance is important for optimal academic functioning. Students often prioritize academics at the expense of personal factors, including relationships and exercise. This can lead to a decline in academic performance, as general health and well-being are critical to optimal academic functioning.”

One can then deduce that a student prioritizing a particular sport at the expense of personal factors could suffer a similar decline. Is Tiger Woods’ meteoric rise and similarly combustible fall partly a product of his father, the late Earl Woods, placing a club in his hands to receive specialized training at the age of three? Was this part of the pressure picture in Tiger’s mind that ultimately caused his now obvious mind/body collapse?

The other side of the coin says to choose something you love, and to pursue it with all your might, passion, vigor, and enthusiasm. It says to become obsessed with this one goal leads to success. Malcolm Gladwell writes of the 10,000-hour rule, the premise being that most of us can be an expert at anything if we devote 10,000 hours to it. The problem is our time is incredibly limited, and most of us can only reach that famed hour marker in one or two areas in our lifetime.

Personally speaking, I’ve taken the latter approach since my late 20’s. I’ve had a singular focus and love for sports media – television, radio, writing, blogging, podcasting, etc. I’ve sacrificed romantic relationships to keep this dream alive. I’m just past 5,000 on-air radio hours toward the 10,000 expert level, and despite my 11.5 years of experience, still feel coachable, with much to learn. Is it all worth it? Would I do it all again? Admittedly, there are days when I waver on this, but ultimately I feel one can never go wrong pursuing what they love. After all, if we love what we spend on our time, we don’t work a day in our lives, right?

I’m unsure there’s an objectively right or wrong answer to Watt’s tweet. His sentiment is his alone, sure to be shared by some, but not all. It appears to me he uses his platform for the greater good and seeing an athlete step outside the white lines every so often to let us into how he/she sees the world is a welcome sight.

My belief is that in the mid-teenage years, most adolescents will begin gravitating toward a few specialties, or areas of interest. In pre-teenage years, however, a child will naturally want to explore, to learn the world, and to experience as many new things as possible. That doesn’t lend itself to a singular focus. Famed astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson was once asked by a six-year-old child at a public event what he should say to his Mommy when she yells at him for making a mess with his toys. His response has stayed with me. “Tell Mom that you are merely exploring your world, learning your environment, imagining out loud. If she sees your mess of toys for what it really is, she will view it differently and positively.”



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