Dear Athletic Support: As a high school basketball player in the 70s, my teammates and I never gave it a thought about setting out a year when we would be moving up a level from Junior High to Senior High. We knew we were probably not going to get to play as much because of better and more experienced players on the varsity team. We knew that our time would come when we would be playing more as we got older and gained more experience in the sport with practice. We were good Junior High players, so we’d eventually be good Senior High players, too. As a teacher in high school and a follower of school sports, I see this is not the norm anymore. What makes these athletes think this way now compared to years ago?
—Paying Your Dues
Dear Dues: I can’t tell you whether kids have changed over the years or not. And that’s saying something because I’m around 14 to 18 year-old students every single day.
Their hairstyles are different. Sure. There’s this new fad called a “septum ring,” which just seems silly (and painful) to me. But have they actually changed? Do they truly lack the perseverance to stick it out and make the varsity team?
I don’t think so.
Kids are just kids. They’re like balls of clay. If you never apply heat— they’ll stay soft forever. What I mean here is that parents are the ones who have changed. Adults. We’re the ones to blame.
My momma always told me I wasn’t “grown” until I was out of her house and paying my own bills. Which meant I had to play by her rules. There were no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
What I see these days is a lack of consequences from adults. Parents lost their backbones somewhere along the line and that’s bled over into sports.
Athletics are tough. Running wind sprints in the dog-days of summer is not easy. And the glory of scoring a touchdown on a Friday night is so far off at that point most kids can’t conceive it. They can’t imagine that the hard work they’re putting in during the summer will pay off big when the game is on the line.
And that’s okay because they’re just kids.
If I had to guess, you and all your buddies back in the 70s weren’t too thrilled about riding the pine at the start of your high school careers. I might be wrong. You might’ve loved it. But if you didn’t, and you were whining and complaining when you came home at night, telling your parents you were ready to quit… What did they say?
As adults — as parents — that’s the question we need to be asking ourselves. It’s always easier to give in. Nobody wants to endure a moping teenager over the course of an entire basketball season. But before you know it, the offseason will arrive, and that pimple-faced sophomore will become a budding junior and things will start to look up.
If you can convince your young athlete to stick it out, and he/she makes it all the way to Senior Night, I can guarantee you one thing — neither one of you will regret it.
Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Send questions for “Athletic Support” to email@example.com