Before ‘I ain’t’ turns into ‘I can’t’

By David Lee Special to the Times
Posted 10/18/19

Back in my high school days at Greenville Rose, I was fortunate to play on a golf team that had a lot of really good players. Tom Ham covered us when we came to Wilson to play. He can tell you how …

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Before ‘I ain’t’ turns into ‘I can’t’

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Back in my high school days at Greenville Rose, I was fortunate to play on a golf team that had a lot of really good players. Tom Ham covered us when we came to Wilson to play. He can tell you how good we were. 

Our No. 1 player received a full scholarship to East Carolina University. Golfers did not get full rides to universities back in those days. Heck, they still do not get full scholarships. Most of them are partial. That is how good he was. Anyway, I was lucky enough to get a scholarship to play at N.C. State University and at any time during my four years of high school golf, I could have been anywhere from the No. 2 player to the No. 5 player on the team. That is how good of a team we had. If you did not break 75 in qualifying, you were not playing in the next match.

Now, I tell you that little bit of background to get to this story. One of my best friends was also a really good junior golfer. We battled all the time growing up and spent many hours on the golf course together. We could not wait to get to high school so we could play for the team. Our freshmen year, we made our way into the starting lineup, played some good rounds and the team was really looking strong for our sophomore year. This is where the story takes a bit of a turn.  

My buddy started dating a senior. She was a cheerleader and lived on the 14th hole at Brook Valley Country Club. You can probably see where this story is going. My buddy started having a hard time making practice. Technically, he was at Brook Valley but just not on the golf course. We would wave at him from the fairway when we went by during practice. And for the record, not one of his teammates blamed him. She was that pretty. And, did I mention, a cheerleader? After that spring, he got out of the flow, lost interest in golf and never played another competitive round for his school. In two simple words, he quit. And he has told me since then, he regrets it every single day.

There are plenty of studies that have proven extracurricular activities outside of the classroom enhance a teenager’s self-esteem and self-worth. It gives them a sense of belonging and confidence. It can be in sports, drama, chorus or a part-time job. They need to stay busy and plugged in.

These days, it seems our youth have no problem walking away — or looking for the easy way out. Taking a hard class with a tough teacher? They want their schedule changed. Not in the starting lineup on an athletic team? They point the finger at everybody else. Practicing and improving never enters their mind. “Gritty and determined” is not how I would describe them. 

When did backing down from a challenge become the norm? What happened to putting your best foot forward and seeing how things shake out? I hate to tell them but the real world does not work that way. Going to work every day for 30 years is hard. Marriage, even at its best, is an every-day challenge. Raising kids is tough. There is no easy way out.

My same buddy called me this past summer and told me this story. His oldest son had a great soccer season as a junior. Led his team in scoring. Won some awards and recognitions. His team made it deep into the state playoffs. When it was time for soccer practice to start for his senior year, his son sat down with his dad and told him he did not want to play. He said he had an immediate flashback to throwing away his last two years of high school golf. It broke my buddy’s heart for a brief moment until his son told him why he wasn’t going to play and what he was going to do with the extra time he would have on his hands. He had a plan and presented it to his father and later, his soccer coach. In person. Not by text or email. In person. Like a responsible adult. 

Sometimes, circumstances run their natural course and end. More than likely, new doors open when this happens. As parents we have to know the difference between this and taking the easy way out. It is up to us to guide our kids through these decisions.

Because one day, that “I ain’t going to do that anymore” attitude is going to turn into “I can’t do that anymore” reality and they will more than likely regret it.

Just ask my buddy.   

David Lee is the Wilson Parks and Recreation Department Director. He is also a part-time golfer, part-time writer and, along with his wife, Dana, full-time parents of two boys.