Dear Athletic Support: My daughter missed basketball practice. When she came back, the coach made her run fifteen laps around the gym. Now, that might not sound all that crazy, but here’s the kicker: my daughter was sick! She had a low-grade fever, so she stayed home. I thought the coach would appreciate that. The last thing anyone needs is the whole team getting sick. But no, this coach punished my daughter for doing the responsible thing. My daughter even said she asked her why she was running, and the coach just told her that was the rule. Like that explained it. I’m seriously struggling with what to do here.
— Sick Of It
Dear Sick: Back when I was coaching, I had a “makeup” policy for players who missed practice, and yes, that included players who missed for sickness.
I compared it to school. How, when you miss school due to sickness, you still have to make up the work.
My “makeup” consisted mainly of running extra after practice. I wasn’t trying to be mean, I really wanted my players to stay in shape. I wanted the players who were at practice to see that anyone who missed would have to do something to account for what they missed the day before.
Lou Holtz once said, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” and if I had to guess, the old ball coach was probably talking about something like this, talking about practice.
Dear Athletic Support: I played basketball in high school. We were good. Really good. Like, only-lost-one-game-my-senior-year good. But I’m a dad now, and my son is the one out on the court, and his team will be lucky to win a game. Period. The worst part? The coach doesn’t seem to care. They lost a game the other night, and as soon as it was over, all the kids were laughing and goofing off. Back when I was playing, if we lost a game, nobody laughed. Heck, nobody talked for the whole bus ride home. It’s all just so different. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how I can help, or how to talk to my son after they lose every game. What’s my role supposed to be as a dad for a team like this?
— Losing Isn’t Fun
Dear Losing: The easy answer here is that, regardless of the wins or losses, your role as a parent shouldn’t change.
Sounds simple enough, but it’s not really true.
Your role does change. It’s much harder to be a parent — a player or coach — on a losing team. The practices and the season drag on forever. Every little problem is magnified. A lot of kids quit.
Which is probably why your son’s coach takes it easy on the boys and lets them goof off after the games. If he made them ride home in silence like back in your glory days, everyone would be in for one long ride.
Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Send questions for “Athletic Support” to email@example.com