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Athletic Support: Parent wants son to practice less
eli cranor
Syndicated sports columnist Eli Cranor

Dear Athletic Support:

Okay. I’m trying so hard not to be “that dad,” but I’m really having a tough time with my son’s new basketball coach. 

Deep down, I think he’s a really good coach. He’s just too much. Especially for 8th grade basketball! I mean, they’re basically like the JV junior high squad. If I’m being honest, the problem has more to do with my son than anything. He’s tall, but he’s not that athletic. And honestly, he’s not even that into basketball. I just think he likes being a part of the team. Hanging out with his friends. All that good stuff. I like the fact that he’s up and moving. Not just playing video games all afternoon. But this coach is just so serious. The boys have to be at the gym at 6:45 AM every single morning. That’s so hard on my wife and me. And for what? Just so my son can ride the bench when the games start? I’m really thinking about having a meeting with this coach. I don’t really know what I’d say, though. Like, how do you explain that you want your son to be on the team, but you don’t want him to have to structure his whole life around 8th grade basketball? Any help would be greatly appreciated. — That Dad.

Dear That Dad: Let me get this straight: you’re proposing is some sort of tiered-practice-time commitment. Where the starters are required to practice more than the players who will undoubtedly end up riding the bench? I’ve never thought of that before. And I can see where you’re coming from.

All the points you’ve laid out make sense. At that age, a young athlete’s talent can range wildly. The gap in talent level can be so wide, in fact, that it may seem like your son will never have a chance of making the starting five. And if that’s the case, why put in the work?

Armpit hair.

I’m serious. Puberty can make a perennial bench warmer into the team’s top scorer in less than a year.

And if that happens to your son, then he’ll need to be practicing — just as much as everyone else — when it’s his time to shine. Now, if you’re simply just not interested, or capable, of making a time commitment like this coach is requesting, then maybe athletics aren’t the right activity for your son.

Youth sports, especially in the South, are taken extremely serious these days.

Whether or not this fanatical approach is warranted is a question for another day.

The one thing I can tell you, though, is that there’s a wide array of other activities your son could do.

Activities that won’t take up nearly as much time and still give him the companionship he’s after.

If you do decide to approach your son’s coach with your reduced-practice- time proposition, I wish you the best of luck.

Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Send questions for “Athletic Support” to

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