22 is no age to start working…


I’ll be the first to admit this one is a little hurried into place this week — busy week.  I’ll have something great up 2 weeks from today. 


Work, it’s what we’re here for…

It was a day or two after my 15th birthday.  My father had scheduled an appointment for me to meet with Paul Weiner, owner of the Bagel Deli in Denver, CO.  Dressed in a shirt and tie, I was told to get on my bicycle, ride about a mile and a half up the road, and apply for a job as a dishwasher, which I did.  The following day, Mr. Weiner called me, and offered me the job.  I began working later that week.

Within a few weeks I was elevated from dishwasher to sandwich maker.  That job, making sandwiches that little Jewish deli in a very un-Jewy part of town, remains one of the best jobs I have ever had.  It was also provided me with some of the most formative experiences of my lifetime.

Though I was also on the diving team of my local swim and tennis club, the lessons I learned working my part-time job would pay greater dividends over a longer period of time than any lessons I learned while on the diving team.


If you’re ever in Denver, this place is a MUST! Looks cab be deceiving…

Do you want fries with that…

If you think about it, the question of do you want fries with that is often asked to student athletes as their parents thread them through the drive-through on their way to their next practice after school.  It wasn’t that long ago that the very same athlete might have been the one on the other side of the window asking that same question.

I have had several discussions recently about the value of youth sports.  In particular, the lessons young people learn from participating in team sports.  I don’t disagree that there are lessons to be learned from participating in team sports, many of those lessons valuable. Teamwork, listening, and adaptation are chief among those lessons learned.  I question though, whether those young people are even tuned into those lessons.

I’ll suggest that youth sports might not be the best learning ground for such lessons.  After all, in the land of youth sports, what is really on the line if one fails to pay attention or perform in accordance with coaching or parental expectations…?  Perhaps the athlete will sit on the bench.  Here’s a thought; some kids actually prefer to sit on the bench.  There is little at stake when kids tune out during team sports.

Here’s another thought; all teens want money.

Where have all the workers gone…

Thirty years ago one could walk into nearly any retail shop, restaurant, or grocery store in this country, and there would be a good chance they would be face to face with a high school student who was also working part-time.  This is just my opinion, but it seems to me fewer teenagers fill those same jobs today.

This is not my opinion:  Despite that I have helped many teenage athletes with their strength and conditioning in support of their extracurricular sports through the years, I can count on one hand the number of those students who have also had part-time jobs.

Due to the increased participation in sports, both high school sports and club sports, many teens today have no time to participate in jobs.  I think this is a gross omission on the part of the parents.  Often times the parents justify their heavy emphasis on team sports by suggesting these sports are their child’s ticket into college, and thus offer greater potential dividends for their child.


I did the math on that with one parent a couple of years ago.  When she and I added up the monthly dues for four years of multiple year-round club sports, uniforms, meals on the road, travel expenses (often out of town and out of state), one child cost her nearly $11,000 over a 4-year span, and she has 2 children involved in sports.  An associate’s degree at a local community college would have cost much less.

In the case of her two children, both will go to a four year college on full athletic scholarships, so the investment of all those hours paid off.  It will remain forever unknown though, what might have been lost by turning 22 years old and having never had a job.

What gets lost…

Most teenagers who forsake the workplace for an overloaded athletic schedule will not receive athletic scholarships.  Nor will they receive many of the valuable lessons which can be learned in the workplace.

I understand, and respect the value of participating in team sports, and the lessons learned.  There are even more important lessons though, to be learned when teens go to work after school rather than to practice or to the game. There can also be much more riding on those lessons – a paycheck.  Of course, that’s only for kids whose parents teach them the value of money, and THAT is an essay for another day.

Every teen who has a job is already a professional at something….  Be well.  Rc

For more of my thoughts on this from a couple of years back, please click here.

I’ll be back in two weeks to share more of what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from, Can.  Enjoy…

12 responses

  1. At the age of 13, my mom made us pick berries in the summer months to earn money and learn the value of what things cost. Me, my brother and my sister along with some friends were all down in the berry fields by 8:00 am nearly every day of the summer. When we got home at noon, we played hard. The lessons I learned working at a Shift Manager at McDonalds during high school couldn’t have been learned on a sports team or in a classroom. I learned about leadership, personal growth, accountability and responsibility. Locking up, opening the store, training people, dealing with interpersonal conflict and doing deposits gave me a head start on how to navigate the adult world, which I immediately needed when I moved to a new country and got married at the age of 20. Teaching people how to work is important.

    • People joke about it far too often, Donloree, but McDonald’s is a great proving ground. I know many people who came out of McDonald’s in the 70s and 80s as kids, and who are very successful managers today.

      I remember the VALUABLE lesson I learned in forgetting to lock up a Baskin & Robbins franchise I worked at when I was 17; I was fired.

  2. Excellent lesson Roy, it brought back memories of my first summer job at the age of 14. While stationed in Germany my Dad drove me the the Star and Stripes news paper plant. One of the beginnings of life lessons. Our parents work ethic were of a solid generation who truly knew the value of money,by way of hard work.

  3. After babysitting in my early teens, I became a lifeguard/camp counsellor (summer) and lifeguard/swimming instructor (rest of the year) at the age of 16. I kept those jobs until I was done with my Master’s (around 24). I climbed up the ladder and became chief lifeguard and swimming instructor trainer.

    In those 8 years I learned pretty much everything I needed to know about
    – responsibility, initiative and professionalism in the workplace
    – teamwork
    – finance management
    – time management

    My parents paid my tuition (which is reasonable in Canada), but insisted that I should work about 10 hours a week to earn money for other things. 10 hours was the magic number they had hear about: not too much so it doesn’t interfere with studying, yet enough to teach you all kinds of things.

    I never played team sports (only individual sports). I believe they suit certain personalities, not all. But my main problem with organized sports is that it’s taken to extremes: too much competition and too much specialization, too early. All kinds of studies show that this is useless, even detrimental, for young kids.

    • Thanks Julie. I played both team and individual sports. I learned much more about me from individual sports, and that was probably where I first realized I need to be self-employed 🙂

      My own daughter began working as she called it, “Slave labor” for her mom by age 12. She worked consistently through high school, and college.

      I hope this trend of kids not having jobs swings back the other way. I wonder this morning, how many US Congress Persons had jobs as teens…

  4. I support your idea, Roy, although I fear our economy works against this,

    I had several jobs before I reached twenty-two. Working on an assembly line in a Sears plant is memorable. All the workers spoke Spanish, and the jefes did not. I learned a lot of swear words in Spanish that summer!

  5. I my observations, it is not just sports that keeps kids from having the time to work part time, but also homework. I have friends whose 8th and 9th graders have 3 hours of homework each evening. It’s crazy.

    And like Dr. J – I think that the jobs that used to be considered as “teen jobs” are now worked by adults who were laid off from their jobs or had a full-time job cut down to part-time because of health care costs and our dismal economy.

  6. My kid is working part time after school at Payless Shoe Store. (sidenote: He broke his foot and is out in his senior year of cross country). It’s funny how some of his complaints about the job are the same kind of complaints that grown folks have in their jobs (like managers that suck and dealing with gossipers and busybodies). I explained to him that his grievances are across the board type stuff that others have as well. Trying to teach in the ropes of this job stuff. It’s good for him. Great essay. XO

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