Dear Athletic Support: I’ve coached both my son’s and daughter’s youth sports teams since they first started playing. At different points throughout my coaching career, I’ve often caught myself getting a little carried away. I’ve been “that” dad. The one who cares way too much. The one screaming from the dugout or stomping up and down the sideline. But now — after having my priorities readjusted due to COVID-19 — I plan to refocus my coaching and parenting philosophy. We started practice a week ago, and it was just so durn fun to get back out on the field. I couldn’t stop smiling. I guess this isn’t much of a question, but after reading your last two columns blasting coaches and parents for wanting to get back to sports as soon as possible, I just wanted to write in and let you know that we’re not all crazy. I understand the risks, but I can’t imagine missing any more time with my kids and sports. And like I said, I think that this break has been good for me. Maybe it’ll be good for you too. — Crazy Daddy Ball
Dear Daddy Ball: Let me start by saying I am in no way against kids returning to sports. My only wish is that parents and coaches will adhere to the proper guidelines. I want sports back just as bad as you do. I also want all young athletes to be as safe as possible.
With that being said, what you’ve just outlined for me, your “priority readjustment,” is perfect. It’s basically at the core of every Athletic Support column I’ve written over the last year.
Every parent, every youth-league coach, all those crazy-eyed, screaming mommas and daddies in the stands — they all need to take a chill pill.
A big one.
And though all sorts of terrible things have come as a result of COVID-19 (hopefully we’re through the worst of it), maybe one silver lining will be that people will begin to see sports — especially youth sports — for what they really are, what they were meant to be:
I dream of day when parents are more worried about their kids’ emotional wellbeing and overall happiness than how many points they scored or hits they had in their last game.
Maybe this pandemic will readjust everyone’s point of view. Maybe we’ll all be seeing sports as a recreational activity again instead of a ticket to a scholarship or small-town fame.
My fear, though, is that it won’t take long for people to forget. A month or so into the upcoming season (if it’s not postponed), what will our view on sports be? Will we all still be thankful to just be back on the field, enjoying the time we’re spending with our children? Or will the weight of competition prove too much and we’ll go right back to treating a kids’ game as if it were life and death?
I don’t know, but I’m really glad to hear you’re taking this stance as you make your way back onto the practice field. I hope you enjoy the time you’ve been gifted. I hope it lasts. Long after the pandemic is over, I hope you’re still smiling.
Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Send questions for “Athletic Support” to email@example.com or visit elicranor.com.