Dear Athletic Support: My ten-year-old son plays multiple sports and is usually one of the better players on his teams. In football, however, he has been relegated to what I would consider a “role player.” Although he plays virtually every snap of the game on the offensive line, he is never given the opportunity to touch the ball. My son says he has fun playing football, and doesn’t mind that his teammates are the primary ball carriers. As a concerned dad, what should I do? Say something to the coach about a position change, or just allow my son to remain a role player on the team? — Seeing Stars In Texas
Dear Stars: There’s a part of me that thinks you already know the answer to this question. Surely, since you’ve taken the time to write in, you’ve read enough of my column to know I’m not going to sugarcoat this answer.
You’re son is role player for a reason.
But, hey, what’s wrong with being a role player? Football teams are almost entirely composed of role players: The backside receiver who has to run his route for the whole pattern to work. The running back on a play action pass who must carry his fake out at full speed.
And may we not forget the offensive lineman, who plays the most selfless position in not only football but quite possibly the entire world of sports.
I had the privilege of coaching the o-line for one season during my career. It didn’t take long for me to realize it’s another world down in the trenches. Everything is measured in inches. There are all these crazy terms for proper footwork: zone steps, power steps, kicks and pulls. The kids were some of the best I ever coached.
On the line, there is no such thing as individual success. It’s simply five young men working together for the good of the whole.
Our country’s obsession with football oftentimes overshadows the true beauty of the game. College athletes either become gridiron gods or get death threats, depending on their performance each Saturday in the fall. High school coaches are paid more than principals, some times more than even superintendents. College coaches are multimillionaires.
Eventually, all football careers comes to an end. What happens to the “star” player when the lights go out and nobody comes to watch him play anymore? He gets a hard dose of reality, that’s what.
Headlines are littered with former quarterbacks and high-profile wide receivers caught up in scandals of all sorts. From driving drunk to domestic abuse, it seems that the most celebrated players have the hardest time adjusting to life on the sidelines.
What we rarely see, however, are linemen getting into trouble. Maybe it’s because they’re already accustomed to the grind. Maybe it’s a blessing, then, that your son has been relocated to the offensive line.
So, no, don’t go talk to the coach about your son’s new role on his peewee football team. That is, unless you’re going to thank him.
Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Send questions for “Athletic Support” to email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> or visit elicranor.com<http://elicranor.com>.