Dear Athletic Support: My daughter plays high school basketball. She came home after practice yesterday pretty upset. Apparently, her coach told the team that she will sub them out if they make a “bad face” after a mistake.
I’m not really sure what this means. I didn’t press the issue because I generally just try to be supportive of the coaches, but I’m having trouble understanding the philosophy behind this. To me, it’s the coaching equivalent of telling your cashier she should smile more. I just don’t see the purpose of trying to police emotional reactions. Can you think of any possible reasoning behind this? — Emotional Police
Dear Police: I used to do something similar. I don’t think I ever benched a player over a sagging facial expression, but I definitely wanted my players to exude confidence and enthusiasm, especially when things weren’t going our way.
One way I did this was by never letting my players bend over and put their hands on their knees. Period. Not even in the heat of the summer when we were running gassers (barring some sort of medical condition, of course).
Simply put: I wanted my boys to stand tall.
My hope was that this would be a lesson that would serve them well during games. They’d never appear tired or weak to their opponent.
They’d also learn the valuable lesson that the mind is stronger than the body.
I believed (and still believe) that my players response to adversity was the single biggest determiner of not only our team’s success, but also the success of their future I wanted to teach my players to respond positively when things didn’t go their way. I wanted them to take their experience in sports and use it as a training ground for overcoming obstacles.
That’s all your daughter’s coach is doing. She’s teaching those girl how to respond in the face of failure. And one way you do that is by controlling your emotions. So what if your last spike landed out of bounds? Don’t pout about it! Go slap hands with your teammates and nail the next one!
That’s the message.
That’s the hope. Learning that lesson is well worth a little time on the bench.
Dear Athletic Support: My son says he hates playing football in the cold. He even seems to think he can’t play in the cold at all. Like, it makes him a worse player or something. I just don’t get it. Back in my day, we didn’t have half the equipment kids have these days. We still played. And we sure didn’t complain! — Hot Take.
Dear Hot: From my experience, anytime you start a sentence off with, “Back in my day…” kids immediately stop listening.
Save your son the war stories. Playing football in the cold is hard. Every hit hurts more. It takes longer to limber up.
The good news? It’s harder for everybody.
Maybe try explaining that to your son. Try telling him that every other player is also cold. They’re all shivering behind their facemasks. And believe it or not, I bet you were too.
Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Send questions for “Athletic Support” to firstname.lastname@example.org