This is the fourth installment of “Old Pueblo Abuelo,” a Sunday thought on positive things happening in the Old Pueblo from a sometimes cranky and often times humorous grandfather actually born in Tucson.
“If your reason for living is beyond the path ahead then make the path ahead your reason for living.”
It’s time to send them off to college. Every year at this time, dozens of parents pack up some of their kids belongings and drive near or far to drop their children off at various colleges. Some get on an airplane and some travel across town. It’s an exciting time and a nervous time.
No one really knows the total number of children from Southern Arizona who go off to college to play sports at any given time. We do know in 2019, the year before the pandemic hit hard, some 195 athletes from Southern Arizona earned some sort of academic or athletic recognition from the various conferences, schools and organizations that hand those honors out. That number fell to around 119 last year with many organizations not awarding honors due to the lack of competition due to COVID restrictions.
Still, even at 195 athletes recognized, that means four or fives that many children from Southern Arizona competed in a variety of sports because most will not earn any kind of recognition unfortunately. A lot of the conferences and organizations will not offer any kind of academic recognitions to freshmen for a variety of reasons and I suspect one of the reasons is the lack of attendance the following year.
Having coached youth sports in Tucson for a couple of decades and talking to various college coaches and recruiters, one of the issues with kids from our area is the tendency to quit athletics and college early on. Again, there are a variety of reasons for that including increased costs because athletic scholarships really do not cover a full tuition and even lack of playing time. There are programs to help with costs and lack of playing time is an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed rather than just stopping play but the overriding cause seems to be what is commonly known as homesickness – not from the athletes.
In my culture, having a child go off to another state to play softball or football can be daunting. It tugs at the hearts of moms and nanas as it should but to what end? The call of “Mija come home” is just as devastating as saying “Mijo don’t go.” And, judging from social media posts from parents, it’s not just the Hispanic culture. There comes a point when one should realize “Tio has a job waiting for you” is not as rewarding to the future of your child (and your family) as coming home with a college degree in hand. Maybe they won’t come home after they get that degree. That should be fine also and, if Tio had a job waiting then it should always be available.
I know it’s painful. All three of my daughters lived far away from Tucson. We had one in the Carolinas, one in Ohio and one in Minnesota. It was difficult to have them out of the nest but they were, and are, living their dreams. It would have been more painful to put an end to those dreams due to our selfish behavior, and that’s really what it is.
We should spend more energy telling our children to follow their dreams than following ours because the dreams of our children should become our dreams.
Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019 and he is a member of the Amphi COVID-19 Blue Ribbon Committee. Contact Andy Morales at firstname.lastname@example.org