A reminder that youth sports politics are not productive

By Janis Meredith | Posted 7/17/2017

Have you ever been frustrated with politics in youth sports?

If so, you will identify with this mom’s story:

My two sons who played football in high school were both what I consider victims of politics. It has soured my taste for kids and sports.

When my oldest son was a freshman he was small but had velcro hands and loved to play wide-receiver. Everyone was amazed by the catches he made. His coaches said, ‘if the quarterback can get the ball within five yards of him, he will catch it”. He was told he would be the starting WR on the team.

When the first game rolled around, he did not start and didn’t play at all. In fact, he did not play the whole year. Instead, the head coach’s nephew wanted that position because his cousin was the QB and he wanted to catch for him, so he got it.

My son stuck it out, went to summer camps and did all he could to improve for the next year. The JV/Varsity coaches told freshman players that if they showed up at least 80% of the time to the weight room they were guaranteed playing time.

My son showed up 100% of the time and in his sophomore year still got zero playing time. Right before his junior season, we asked the head varsity coach what my son needed to work on to earn a spot that year. He said that my son was an awesome player with ‘sticky’ hands and he did not feel that my son had anything to work on to earn a spot.

But my son did not play one single play his junior year. He loved football so he opted to play his senior year even though he figured he would probably not get to play. However, he did get to play some and he caught the ball four out of five times.

Fast forward to a year later: my son was at a get-together with some kids. The kid who played QB all four years while my son played came up to my son and apologized, saying that my son had been treated badly. He admitted that it was all about him, his dad and his cousin and that they should not have done to him what they did.

It was a nice apology but after four years of hard work, the only thing my son got out of it was a late apology and a bad taste for sports.

As a parent, I can see that it did help him develop tenacity, which he still has to this day. He has learned to deal with disappointment and still stick with things. But he also paid a high price as it really took a toll on his self-esteem in those critical formative years.

To this mom, I say, “I’m sorry.” I wish your sons hadn’t had such negative experiences. I hope they can look back at these tough times and learn something that will help them and you be stronger, more compassionate people.

Resources: USA Football's Youth Football Parents 101 with Christine and Mike Golic​​​​​​​

Janis B. Meredith is a sportsparenting blogger, podcaster, and life coach. She provides resources to help parents give their children a positive and growing youth sports experience. Her book 11 Habits for Happy & Positive Sports Parents is available on Amazon.