Sunday, October 19, 2008

Stepping Up or Stepping Away

Elena Delle Donne strikes me as a brave young woman. There’s a story At Pinnacle, Stepping Away From Basketball in today’s New York Times about Elena, an elite basketball player from Delaware. She left the powerhouse University of Connecticut program after only a few days because “I was overdriving myself because I was so into becoming the best…. It wasn’t fun. It was like a job, and it was a job I wasn’t getting paid for.”

Elena is now playing volleyball at the University of Delaware. Her dad, Ernie, thinks big factors were homesickness and the need to be near her older sister, who has cerebral palsy.

From the little bit one can glean through a newspaper article, Ernie seems to be displaying great fatherly wisdom in how he’s supporting his daughters.

According to the Times, Ernie posed a couple of hypothetical questions to Elena:

If she could play volleyball at a powerhouse like Stanford or basketball at
Delaware, which would she choose? If UConn played basketball in Newark, Del.,
instead of Storrs, Conn., what sport would she choose?

It strikes me that those are the right kind of questions for a dad to ask—instead of asking something like: “How could you give up? How could you do this to me? How could you abandon a scholarship?””

Also wisely, Ernie isn’t looking for final answers—probably because he knows his daughter is still a teenager, and that there will be a lot of change ahead in her life. Just as there will be many new and good things ahead for the most skilled of our athlete daughters, like Candace Parker Tamika Catchings.

“I want her to watch the Final Four,” Ernie Delle Donne said. “Hopefully, Geno
Auriemma is cutting the net down. And I hope Elena says, ‘Thank God I’m not
there.’ Then it was the right decision. We’ll see. I honestly couldn’t tell you
within 30 percent what her reaction is going to be. I feel more confident
predicting the stock market.”

Take a few minutes to reflect on your perceptions of your daughter’s talents, looking at how much she is driving herself and how much others (maybe including yourself) are driving her.

And then ask her some hypothetical questions, like Ernie asked Elena. Use the comments section below to let us know your insights and conversations. And remember that, no matter what our daughters do this week or this year, we hope that there are many more years of unfolding, challenging, unpredictable new experiences ahead in her life. And that’s a GOOD thing!