You Don’t Need Piano In the NFL

I have a day named after me in my hometown. September 19th, I think. Priscilla Pacheco Day.
I have a day named after me in my hometown. September 19th, I think. Priscilla Pacheco Day in Austin, TX.

What does it take to change a sport?

To change the way people do things or think?

For athletes to have permission to be real and be honest?

What will it take for club sports and parents and universities to train whole athletes?

I’ve had this vision and passion since I graduated college that was intensified in my graduate program to train athletes beyond their sport. To train them physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. To train them to be elite athletes and elite human beings. To be people of character.

I believe in sports as an amazing avenue for a child to set goals, learn to advocate for themselves and to learn character, but somewhere something goes wrong. Somewhere along the way our kids and our athletes become their sport.

I’m no different. I became volleyball. I became my sport. And when it was all said and done, the transition to normal life was rough. Oh, I’ve got stories.

I know, don’t feel sorry for me. I got a full-ride and played at a Division-I school. I set records, I broke records, I still hold records. I got a degree. I played professional ball. Do you know the percentage of hopefuls that do that? It’s less than 10% across the board and some sports are less than 1% (this study shows more).

I’m one of the lucky ones. Right?

Sure, you could say that.

But look around.

Our gyms and sand courts and baseball fields and football turfs and mini-soccer teams and basketball courts are filled with wide-eyed kids and greedy parents (not you, or course) looking for the next big thing in sports. We park our rears on our fold-out chairs and watch while our kids do what they do, while we sit on our keister’s and take in the hopes and dreams we have for our kids.

It’s good for them, we say.

Then we joke about the NBA or the NFL or MLB or Team USA. We’re only kidding. Well, kinda. Wouldn’t that be cool? Trust me, I hear ya.

Right now my kids are little. I have purposefully kept them from team sports until they come begging me. And why would I do that when I had such a wonderful experience as a student-athlete? Why would I keep them from the very thing that gave me purpose and direction and a healthy outlet? Because I’m not ready for you guys.

I’m not ready for the parents. I’m not ready to compete with you and have to shield my kids from you. I’m not ready to drive them all over kingdom come so they can have an overuse injury by the time they are fourteen.

I want to train their character before I train them as athletes.

I want them to be whole athletes.


Tonight my son told me he didn’t want to try piano. I said “you need to do piano before you try the drums” (he’s been bugging me about drum lessons). He told me he didn’t want to do drums anymore that he only needed to throw footballs because you don’t need piano in the NFL.


Playing in the NFL is not something we have ever encouraged him to do for a living – even though I love me some college football #godawgs.

Innocent fan, right?

Not when it came marching up into my house and crawled into bed with my seven year-old last night. You better believe there was a long discussion about why “NFL” isn’t a college degree. I told him he wasn’t going anywhere until he finished 1st grade – oh, we’re not done yet. I don’t know if he’ll play college football, let alone flag football, but right now I am concerned with his character. I’m concerned with his heart and his motives and his actions. Who he is. What he stands for.

I teach him this now because, I wasn’t a whole athlete. I want him to do and be better than I was.

See, I was a good volleyball player, but I was kind of a disaster.

I was a jerk. I was mean. I was a bully. I didn’t make the best decisions back then and I didn’t have the resources to deal with the pressure of growing up and keeping a full schedule of classes, practice, training and rehab. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who experienced this, but we all just did it because it was expected of us. We had a huge support system in place for us as athletes, but when it came to boys or stress or anxiety or team dynamics – well, most of that we worked out on our own. At least I know, I did.

Gosh. I learned so much from my time there, but I also had a lot of pain that had nothing to do with volleyball.

We expect our athletes to perform as seamlessly off the court as they do on the court and most of the time there is a big disconnect.

I know I’m not alone. Any time I speak to a former student-athlete we all know that we know that we know. Now it’s just time to do something about it.

Let’s train whole athletes. Who’s with me?

Published by pytallman

Wife, mother, Christ follower.

9 thoughts on “You Don’t Need Piano In the NFL

  1. I was lucky enough to be on championship teams in high school, college and in the pros. I was also lucky enough to play for gentlemen coaches that molded the man as well as the athlete. I was in an era before high intensity youth sports, but later coached there and the parents helped me to decide not to pursue coaching any further. It is a new world, but really not a better one for the young athlete-sorry.

    1. It’s so hard for me because I had a fantastic experience playing sports. I had my challenges and my transition was hard, but I had enough direction from my parents to help me navigate that right out of college and beyond (quite frankly, they are still talking me through things! lol.). So when my kids want to pursue sports, I’m excited and want to encourage it, but I know things are much different these days. There are some fantastic coaches from my day doing some really great things, so I think the conversation (at least in volleyball) is already started. Love your comment, thanks for reading.

  2. Enjoyed reading your article, we as Texas high school football coaches found the same thing, that enough wasn’t being done to develop the athlete’s character. And, because of this, we created a character curriculum called, A Football Journey, which allows coaches to truly invest in their players. This Fall, we will launch a curriculum called, Character Wins, which is adapted for all sports at the high school level. Thank you once again for sharing.

  3. Shawn, I was just looking over a bit of your curriculum on your FB page. Such a great program. I’d love to see your volleyball stuff if there is a place I could order it. I think some of the issues dear to my heart are the emotional stresses, not necessarily on the court/field, but off. Things like relational dynamics with family, team, coaches, etc and also predisposition for anxiety and/depression.

    Resources kids can use and also be able to communicate their needs and feel safe doing so. Athletes have to perform so much that they need a place to just be themselves. I’ve worked on much of this in a similar program – looks like it might be time to revisit. Thank you for reading and for your comments! Priscilla

  4. I agree with you that kids need time to be ready to play sports. If you can train them to enjoy the sport win or lose they will have a wonderful life of competition. I was good as a kid. I always had to win as and I did win as as a kid. I learned that if I won I was good and if I lost I was bad. That continued my whole life. You know I was a scrub at UGA and that humbled me a bit. However, to this day I still feel the need to win. So, I never have fun because I am not the best. I have to think any kind of time and training before team sports would have helped. Also, I do t remember you being a bully!

    1. Lilly! I love that you read this blog. You are my people…Lol. I wasn’t good for a long time, so I think that helped. I had to really love the game to continue because I struggled. But the biggest thing no matter if we were good or not, when the sport ends it pretty much ends and I want my kids to have the resources and resiliency to keep on moving – and whether or not I will accomplish that (even if they don’t pursue sports) is to be determined. Thanks for the comment…and yeah, you wouldn’t remember me as a bully because you weren’t on my team. I’ve had some humorous conversations with my teammates in recent years. It’s funny now, but I doubt it was back then 🙂

  5. Oh man! This is a great blog.You are a very talented writer, and you have great topics. It is not oftern a person that was at on time ” the best ” shares their thoughts. Your honesty and humility also comes throught and that is also rare. Keep up the good work.

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