Wednesday, February 3, 2016

2 Things Parents Should Ask Their Kids About Playing Time

The quick and most likely first thing that comes to a parent’s mind when their child, a player, complains about playing time is the subjective thought that everything they are saying is right. I’m not suggesting that your child ever lies to you or is lying to you. Maybe they truly do think they deserve playing time for the work they’ve put in. A lot of times these children's coaches have been around the game, whether they’ve played high school and college ball or they’ve coached for five, ten, sometimes twenty or more years. Most of them know what it takes to succeed in the sport. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few out there that you have your opinions about that might be true. Now, all of that being said, I encourage parents to be involved and ask a couple of objective questions that may help your child earn the playing time they want.

1. Have you done everything you can possibly do to distance yourself from the competition (your teammates and opponents)?

If the answer is yes, and oftentimes, it is not, ask your child the next question. Also, if the answer is yes, find your school’s website, find the athletic page, and finally, find the calendar of events leading up to this sport’s playing season. Did they really do everything? No, I’m not suggesting that your child meets with a $100/hour batting coach in the off-season. Did your child go to everything he/she could in which all of his/her teammates had the same opportunity to go to?

OK, so now that you’ve established that they haven’t gone to everything (assuming they haven’t), it is up to you to determine if they reasonably went to the majority of the things they could go to in order to get better (because honestly, the kid that makes it to every single thing in the off-season is one in a million). However, if your kid went to a seven on seven and one day of weight training in the off-season and you thought they did a lot that off-season, the coach is probably right in seeing it the other way around.

2. Do you compete with your teammates every single day?

As an assistant football coach, I see too many players who are content with going through the motions with their teammates every day in practice. If you aren’t willing to compete against your teammates and show that you deserve playing time, what makes us, as coaches, think that you are going to compete at a high level in a game? It’s a hard concept to get through to kids that competing against their friends is what will earn them playing time and ultimately make their teammates and themselves better players and people. This doesn’t just mean competing on the practice field, though, this means competing with grades, competing with weights, speed, routes, competing to be the better wide receiver, lineman or quarterback. Who has the highest on base percentage, who hits the most home runs or who throws harder? The word compete is something your child should hear on a daily basis, because at the end of the day, if you have a competitive will to be the best you can be at everything you do, you will ultimately win in life.

So in closing, if you ask your child both of these questions and you conclude that the answers are collectively no and no, does your child have an argument for playing time? I guess that is up for you to decide, but I can tell you from a coach’s perspective it’s probably one of the reasons they aren’t seeing the playing time they want. I would suggest to them that maybe they should work on both of these things for the following season (and coaches will notice). If you get one ‘yes’ out of the two questions, maybe you can help them understand that they should continue to do that and start to work at the other. If you get two yes answers and they are both reasonably true (it is very rare to find a player with that character today), before you instantly start pointing fingers at the coaches, objectively ask yourself just one final question: is it possible that my child isn’t the most athletically gifted at his/her given position? I’m not a parent, but I can imagine that is a very tough question to ask yourself. And if the answer to that question is ‘yes, it is possible’, understand just one final thing: if your child has both of these traits and isn’t athletically better than their peers or teammates, it’s not the end of the world. You as a parent, and we as coaches, have succeeded because this child is prepared to take on the world and succeed in something much, much bigger than sports – life.

Like this blog? I strongly recommend Super Bowl winning coach Pete Carroll’s book Win Forever, which can be purchased directly from the bookstore on the right. Parents, read this book and have your athlete read this book. Fellow coaches, I promise you will like this book.

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Check out my other post: 3 Reasons Why Kids Need Football

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

3 Reasons Why Kids Need Football

Brookwood Athletic Complex, Clare, MI

A Game Under Attack

After a recent attendance of a Michigan High School Football Coaches Association clinic, I've come to a realization that the game that kept me on the right path, in terms of manhood and what it takes to live a successful life, is under attack. That game is football and it is under attack from several major media outlets. Many schools are seeing lower participation numbers as a result of this image that football equals concussions and concussions equal Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which is a progressive degenerative brain disease. I strongly encourage parents and children who believe this to be true after watching an episode of SportsCenter to do some research of their own (in fact, I'll provide a few links at the end of the blog to make this process a little easier for you). If after that research, you conclude that you feel the same way you did before, that is your choice and I will understand. The fact of the matter, though, is this: the game of football is safer than it has ever been and the risk of head and neck injury doesn't, or shouldn't, outweigh the life lessons learned and the memories made from the game of football. You may argue that sports, in general, teach these lessons, and I agree to an extent. No team sport, however, is as physically and mentally demanding as the game of football; thus, no team sport is as great of a learning tool for these crucial life values:

1. Mental Toughness

The game of football is the most physically and mentally demanding team sport around. If five hour practices with a helmet and shoulder pads on during the hottest part of the summer isn't one of the greatest tests of mental toughness, I don't know what is. This sport demands discipline when you have been beat up and worn down physically and mentally. There are so many situations in everyday life which require mental toughness - too many to name.

2. Learning from Failure

Pat Fitzgerald, head football coach for Northwestern University, says kids are afraid to fail. Isn't that something that we, as humans, should be afraid of? If our kids are afraid of failure, imagine what a slap in the face "the real world" is going to be for them. In real life, as adults, we fail all the time! It's a fact, we just do. But some of us are willing to accept the fact and find something that we succeed in. Football is a game that teaches kids that sometimes your best isn't good enough (and that's OK!). 

I was a part of a Michigan High School Athletic Association state runner-up football team in 2009. Yes, I said a part. My athletic ability failed me, even though I pushed myself for six years to be the best football player I could possibly be. There were athletes that were just flat out better than me. I realized that life continues and, as it does, I have discovered new goals that I am working toward. Thanks to football, I will understand that if "giving it my all" toward these new goals isn't good enough, it will be OK.

Now, since "a part" was in bold in the previous paragraph, you may not have noticed that I also said that I was on a state runner-up team. My brothers and I collectively failed in the biggest football game of our lives, the MHSAA State Finals game. Most would agree that we didn't perform to the best of our ability that day; some would agree that we would've lost nine or ten times out of ten. The fact remains, though, that many of us learned in the hardest way possible (in sports) how to recover from failure. Many of us from that team have four year degrees now, some are serving or have served our country in the military, some have full-time jobs and have started a family. All of us have failed numerous times since, and all of us understand how to recover.

3. Brotherhood

The brotherhood that is created by the game of football is second-to-none. In a game that is so physically and mentally demanding, teams are challenged to come together and create a brotherhood. While our season in 2009 didn't end the exact way we wanted it to, we were able to create a lifetime of memories that I will forever be grateful for. I'm positive if you talk to anyone who has played the game of football for a reasonable amount of time, they will tell you that the brotherhood and memories made within the game are unlike those from any other sport.


College Athletics Safer Than Ever:

University of Michigan Neurologist, Jeffrey Kutcher:

Society has taken away the kids ability to learn from failure - Pat Fitzgerald

*Highly recommended* Jeffrey Kutcher, MD - 2015 Sport Concussion Summit:

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