Thursday, August 23, 2007

The coach's son

Recent list work: 4, 94.

This article from Slate is a bit old, but I came across it today and it got me thinking. For those who don't want to follow the link, it's about how the coach's son often gets to monopolize time in the game in youth sports, play the coveted positions, and get onto travel teams, regardless of skill level. I've seen various examples of the coach's son in my own athletic experiences, and I think this stance is an oversimplification.

For one, I was a coach's son for a while. My Dad coached my softball team in the summer for a few years when I was a small kid--part of that me being from a 1950s sitcom thing. My Dad was worried about people thinking that I'd get perks for being the coach's son, so in reality...I played fewer innings than anyone else who showed up to every game, and got to play the positions I enjoyed less often than the other players on the team got to for the first few games, until a few of the other players spoke up and said it wasn't fair that I wasn't playing as much.

A similar but rather opposite experience took place a few summers later, on a different team. That coach kept putting his son in as the starting pitcher. His son, while a highly skilled baseball and softball player, was not a softball pitcher. he was on our high school's baseball team, but I think he was short stop. He finally snapped at one point and yelled at his dad that our team had the top two pitchers in the league, he wasn't one of them, and he wasn't going to pitch in another game even if that meant he had to sit on the bench. These two incidents illustrate my point that I think sometimes adults tend to forget that many kids have a definite sense of fair play, and even unwritten rules are typically enforced rather equitably.

These softball teams I was on weren't competitive ones. There were no playoffs, nothing special for being the best team in the league, none of that. Even so, most of the players both wanted to play fair and wanted to win. I imagine on more competitive teams, the desire to win increases substantially, so the coach faces a potential problem from overplaying his son: the rest of the team being resentful not because the coach's son gets to play more than they do, but because the coach's son gets to play more often than players he's worse than. That can lead to a pretty bad backlash.

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