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Press Box

By Staff | Aug 17, 2016

The high school sports scene is marching toward its zenith!

Everywhere one looks, there are kids conditioning in anticipation of a new sports season and the hope that those hot and humid summer workouts are about to pay some dividends.

The start of school and the new sports year means those sweaty sports camps are over and the busy schedules begin. Parents become frantic as they race from one event to the next; they experience joy and disappointment. With disappointment comes the age old question, “Why isn’t my kid playing?”

It’s something every coach from youth league through high school has been challenged with. It’s a question that’s been asked as far back as anyone can remember. Most coaches are notorious for not answering the way you and I would consider to be telling the truth.

The absurdity of many “win at all cost” coaches especially in the youth leagues is equally matched by the fanaticism of “play my kid or else” parents. How do you answer such a question or combat such a threat?

As children mature in high school, it becomes all the more difficult to answer either side. Good coaches know who should and shouldn’t play. They know who’s skilled or gifted as an athlete and who isn’t. They also know who shows up prepared and who works as hard in practice as they do in game situations.

Good coaches are not as blunt or honest as you or I would be. They’re not going to tell you that under nearly every circumstance (my guess would be 95 percent of the time) the main reason why your kid is not playing is because he or she is just not good enough. Not in the sense of being a good person, but as an athlete.

My question is why can’t the frantic parent recognize this and move the child in a different direction? Sports for the most part will end with the athlete’s last high school game. With the vast majority of all athletes, that holds true. Most coaches are not going to politely tell you your child is not talented enough to play, at least on a regular basis.

Parents can and do get a little crazy when it comes to their children. Almost every parent wants what’s best for their child. At one time or another in their own minds most parents fancies a scenario where their children can master a sport well enough to play at a higher level. However, when that dream or delusion is squashed and they meet reality, it becomes hard to reconcile. The thing is, most kids know what they can and can’t do. They know who the elite gifted players are. They know this by the time they are middle schoolers or freshman. Parents don’t know! Not all coaches know! But the kids know. Most kids play because they enjoy it and they want to belong to a team. Some do it to try and make their parents happy.

Too much pressure is put on today’s youth to become something they aren’t. Most kids playing sports have been doing so since they were 5 or 6 years old. They then become high school athletes and most are skilled and very talented. They can run, jump, catch, throw, shoot, hit and kick. They can lift twice their body weight yet they are still not good enough for college and beyond.

It’s not always about playing time. Sure, I will agree every child should get some playing time. Especially if he or she practiced equally as long and hard as the elite player, but not at the expense of a better player. Sports is no different than any other educational experience. They learn about winning and losing, bad calls and bad breaks.

Some kids still just aren’t good enough to play, at least as a regular. Many kids today would be far better off putting all their energy into something more constructive. Today’s children live in a world constructed by well meaning, but dangerously naive parents who have never taught their kids how to handle disappointment. They live in a world where they never learn “no”.

All kids should have a chance at playing and being a part of a team. If they aren’t talented enough to play or by chance they don’t work at it hard enough, there are plenty of other things to do. It’s part of learning life’s lessons, including Mick Jagger’s truism “you can’t always get what you want.”

No child should ever be forced to play sports and no child should ever go out for any team thinking they’re going to be guaranteed a spot or playing time, no matter how loud their parents complain. No one is guaranteed playing time in life. For the most part, hard work, effort, planning and desire are rewarded. The benefits can be great, but it’s good to be prepared when it doesn’t work out that way.