Have you ever felt the pain of politics in youth sports?
If so, you will identify with this mom’s story:
My two sons who played football in high school were both what I consider victims of politics. It has soured my taste for kids and sports.
When my oldest son was a freshman he was small but had velcro hands and loved to play wide-receiver. Everyone was amazed by the catches he made. His coaches said, ‘if the quarterback can get the ball within five yards of him, he will catch it”. He was told he would be the starting WR on the team.
When the first game rolled around, he did not start, and didn’t play at all. In fact, he did not play the whole year. Instead, the head coach’s nephew wanted that position because his cousin was the QB and he wanted to catch for him, so he got it.
My son stuck it out, went to summer camps and did all he could to improve for the next year. The JV/Varsity coaches told freshman players that if they showed up at least 80% of the time to the weight room they were guaranteed playing time.
My son showed up 100% of the time and in his sophomore year still got zero playing time. Right before his junior season, we asked the head varsity coach what my son needed to work on to earn a spot that year. He said that my son was an awesome player with ‘sticky’ hands and he did not feel that my son had anything to work on to earn a spot.
But my son did not play one single play his junior year. He loved football so he opted to play his senior year even though he figured he would probably not get to play. However, he did get to play some and he caught the ball four out of five times.
Fast forward to a year later: my son was at get-together with some kids. The kid who played QB all four years while my son played came up to my son and apologized, saying that my son had been treated badly. He admitted that it was all about him, his dad and his cousin, and that they should not have done to him what they did.
It was a nice apology but after four years of hard work, the only thing my son got out of it was an late apology and a bad taste for sports.
As a parent I can see that it did help him develop tenacity, which he still has to this day. He has learned to deal with disappointment and still stick with things. But he also paid a high price as it really took a toll on his self-esteem in those critical formative years.
This mom goes on to tell about her other son, who also suffered from what seemed to be “political” decisions.
When my other son began his freshman year of football, he was one of two players that were the “coaches favorites”. He lost position battles against kids who threatened to quit and parents who complained and in his senior year was slowed down by asthma struggles.
In his senior year, he was benched for the season because he was not “putting in enough effort and he looked really bad at practice.” Even when the starting defensive end broke his leg in the first game and my son asked if he could have that position, they said no and moved a sophomore up to fill that spot.
Halfway through the season, they let my son have his TE spot back and admitted that he was better than the other kid.
I will not say that I handled the second situation well. It was one of the few times I went in and let the coaches have a piece of my mind. I do not know the answer to this day…
To this mom, I say, “I’m sorry.” I wish your sons hadn’t had such negative experiences. I hope they can look back at these tough times and learn something that will help them and you be stronger, more compassionate people.
Have you struggled with youth sports politics?
If so, I’d like to give you a free guide that will hopefully help you navigate the messiness. Get your Navigating the Politics of Youth Sports Guide HERE.