Jeff Pearlman

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Coaches need to chill with scheduling

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My kids and 10 and 13. Both play youth sports, though my daughter (the older of the two) is more serious about her chosen endeavor (water polo) than my son is about his (he actually doesn’t have a chosen endeavor. He participates according to season).

The wife and I often discuss the seriousness of youth sports scheduling, which—in my humble and relatively unimportant opinion—has gone batshit crazy. This is the topic we discuss at length in the newest episode of The Sports Parent podcast.

Here’s my basic take: Coaches need to chill. Yes, commitment is important. And participation is important. If you sign up to be on a team, and your games are every Friday, well, we need to be there every Friday. If practices are three nights per week, hey, you signed up for practices three nights a week. You said you’d do it—you do it.

But there’s an asterisk, and it belongs alongside major events. For example, my daughter recently had her eighth grade dance. It was a big deal—DJ, food, snazzy duds, decorated gymnasium, most everyone going. I REALLY wanted her to attend, because, well, life goes fast. And this would be significantly more memorable than merely another sport practice. Casey, fortunately, didn’t have any scheduling conflict. But other classmates did—and their coaches steadfastly refused to allow them to miss practice for the dance.

Not a game, mind you. Practice.

This infuriates me.

Sometimes a coach needs to see the bigger picture. Character development. The joy of youth. Time with friends. If I’m heading a team of 13-year olds, and there’s a practice conflicting with the dance, I say, “Listen, you’re in eighth grade one time. Go to the dance. Get your work in later. But go to the dance. Go.”

Take a listen. We debate this one.

  • tenn tom

    If you will permit I will tell a story. Last week I was umpiring a fast pitch softball tournament. I handle from 12u thru college-age. I was working a 12u game where the kids on one team didn’t have a clue. They made 7 errors in a row one inning and the Coach screamed out “Catch the goddam ball girls”. I took a slow walk over to the bench and told the coach to watch his language. He replied “What for, I just asked them to catch the ball”. I said no coach, you said goddam. His reply was “So what, everyone speaks like that”. I told him if he said it again I would ask him to leave. He then called me old-fashioned. Sure enough, an inning later he said it again and the parents threw him out.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life