My wife and I have been blessed with two talented sons.
They're not fast enough to anchor relay teams. They can't jump high enough to touch the rim and neither exactly dominated their Tee-Ball leagues.
But both are bright, articulate, creative and motivated, which presented us with some options when it came time to choose a high school.
We could have let them follow their junior high friends to the next level, perhaps having them take advanced placement courses. We could have sent them to a private school for more favorable teacher-to-student ratios.
We chose to pursue the International Baccalaureate program at Modesto High for both. It requires a full-time, family commitment to the curriculum, many long nights-into-mornings of homework, and since we had to secure a waiver to send them to a school outside our district, it meant we would have to provide transportation to and from school every day.
We did it for one reason: Our responsibility as parents is to give our children the best possible chance to succeed in life, and preparing them to receive a college education is the cornerstone of that creed.
Had either of them in junior high been average students, but identified as having athletic aptitude great enough to serve as a gateway to a college education, we would have faced a different set of options and decisions.
By now, if you've read some of the recent letters to sports, you know where this is headed.
We would have chosen an athletic program to best suit our sons' needs, as long as we had confidence that no rules -- including those regarding recruiting, illegal benefits or academic shortcuts -- were being broken.
If that sport had been basketball, they would have gone to Modesto Christian.
Why? To get the best basketball instruction available in our area, to test their skills against the most difficult competition, and to have the chance to be seen by scouts and coaches representing the nation's elite college basketball programs. All this, while getting the academic attention necessary to meet NCAA entrance requirements.
With the exception of Johansen water polo, no athletic program in the Modesto Metro Conference has displayed the resources, ability or desire to match the complete commitment Modesto Christian has shown to pursuing excellence in basketball.
Anticipating the letters, I would like to point out that I am not on the Crusaders' payroll. I am not the school's head cheerleader. I do not serve as MC's sports information director.
But I do understand the sporting climate in our area, and how by building itself into a regional basketball power Modesto Christian has opened itself to criticism, including facing many of the same accusations hurled at Central Catholic for its football prowess in the last two decades.
It's so easy to blindly accuse a private school of recruiting players, when the truth is that the exact opposite is occurring -- players and their parents seek out and recruit themselves to top programs.
Every student at every private school, whether an athlete or not, resides in a public school district. For each parent, the private school provided something for their child not offered at their designated public high school.
But somehow, when that primary reason for enrolling at a private school is a sport, it's deemed seedy. Parents and schools are accused of losing perspective when in fact they're the ones seeing the big picture with clarity, understanding that whether in the classroom, the athletic field or in life, the goal is the same -- to struggle, sweat and strive to learn, because only then can you gain the confidence necessary to perform at the highest level in life's difficult situations.
You enroll your young athlete at Modesto Christian knowing the time commitment can be overwhelming. There are long practices, summer leagues, perhaps travel ball, and it all comes on top of and after meeting the school's academic requirements.
It's a commitment that nurtures winning, and the resulting success has turned Modesto Christian into a magnet program for gifted basketball players.
Between our two sons, my wife and I have been through six years of the IB program at Modesto High. I've been watching Modesto Christian basketball for the last 11 years.
In both cases, it's been amazing to witness what young people can achieve when great challenges are presented by motivated teachers.
Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org