Dear Athletic Support: My son is a sophomore on the high school football team. His first game is the Friday before Labor Day. There’s no chance he’s getting to play, not for the varsity squad, but his coach is requiring all players to come back for practice on Monday even though there is no school. We’re serious dove hunters, and we always go out of town for a big hunt on Labor Day. Do you think his coach would care if he missed practice on Monday? — Daddy Dove
Dear Dove: I can remember multiple instances in the coaches’ offices from my past where we would sit around and discuss exactly this sort of question. We were trying to figure out which kids were committed, which ones truly cared, even if they were second string.
As a sophomore, your son is one of the youngest players on the team. His lack of playing time might not have anything to do with talent. It could simply be an issue of experience. In other words, the other guys out on that field were sophomores at some point. They all paid their dues.
I would urge you to be wary of sending the wrong message to your son. He signed up to be a part of a team. In doing so, he agreed to be in attendance at games — and practices.
Imagine if all the boys that weren’t starters decided it wasn’t worth their time to attend practice. There would be no scout look, no way to prepare for next week’s opponent. Don’t forget football’s most important lesson: teamwork.
You may be thinking, “But it’s just one practice!” Let me remind you that the second time you do anything is always easier than the first. If your son establishes a pattern of skipping practice, it could form a habit that bleeds over into his adult life, and possibly even his career.
Besides, opening day of dove season (at least in Arkansas) is Sunday. Go out and have a blast early Sunday morning, kill a limit or two, but just make sure you get done in time for church.
Dear Athletic Support: My daughter plays three different sports. It seems like there’s always newer and nicer equipment to buy. I get the feeling all the gear is more about parents showing off instead of actually giving the kids what they need. I want my daughter to feel loved and supported. How can I go about creating reasonable expectations for her without being a spoilsport? — Budgeting Mother
Dear Budgeting: Buy your daughter only what she needs. New shoes for basketball season? Sure. Kneepads for volleyball? Snatch them up (if they’re not already provided by the school). Keep it simple and focus on the essentials.
It’s really no different from proper spending practices in other areas of your daughter’s life. Every time the latest iPhone comes out, do you run to the store with your debit card in hand? I hope not.
There is power in restraint and joy to be found in waiting. Make sure your daughter is properly equipped, but don’t go overboard. It’s a slippery slope. She’ll be better off in the end if she’s taught to be thankful for all you’ve already given her.
Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Send questions for “Athletic Support” to firstname.lastname@example.org.