I am bummed to report that Crazy Sports Parent? #8 with Nettie Respondek did not save to our FB timeline. It was a great episode with 100+ live viewers, comments and likes (and then it disappeared forever.) I told Nettie that I wanted her to beat my dad’s record of 1,300+ viewers and counting. She would have stayed to re-tape it, but I thought a re-cap would suffice for now.
Here is a summary of what we covered with a link to a more extensive article by a doctor (and it looks like Nettie and I guessed right).
Nettie, who played at Vandy, knew her career was coming to a close as the injuries mounted. I remember my last cut in the ABL and how I was not allowed in the gym to watch my friends finish the final round. I didn’t want to anyway. Instead of going inside the gym at Emery University, I sat in the football stadium bleachers with my back to the gym, listening to the squeaking of sneakers, all the talking on defense, and it felt like a part of me died.
I tried coming back a few times over, but I knew it was over at that moment. Keep in mind that I can’t imagine what that severance from your social group and from your core ID would have felt like as a teenager. I do know that I was scared for my life and ID when I tore my ACL, but getting cut?
I told the story of a very tiny player on JV who was emotional during the games and when she was alone. I couldn’t get why she was crying when she was playing. Then her mother told me she was not sleeping and not eating. Why? Because she loved her teammates so much and she did not see her making the varsity in the big public school the following year. So she was mourning the loss of hoops before it even ended.
I’ve had lunch recently with Motion alum who were so committed to their sport, but they ended up in situations where the coach led them down a path of “you must be committed” and they thought there would be a return on their sacrifice, but the coach put little weight on how much he strung them along. Both realized that life was actually better without being at the mercy of a coach who showed them no respect.
Parents of course don’t want to open up the idea that quitting is okay, so most players hang in and let someone else control their fate. So what do you do or say?
Here’s what we covered in three parts during the episode:
PART I Know The Reality of The Sport. This means know the genes that work with hoops (big, long, fast, tall and aggressive – some kids love contact, others do not). Football to me is such a draw because so many kids with limited skills and different skills can find their place (like a military option). Basketball is tough because almost all players have to do MOST of the skills (eye-hand, defend, pass, and process). Also remember most hoops teams have a rotation of 5-8 players. Most hoops teams are 12-15 players, but again, playing kids past #9 is tough and often there’s not a lot of difference between players #9-#20. So if your kid looks a lot like he or she fits into that bunch of kids, but others in the bunch are bigger, faster, stronger, that is who the coach will pick. And I’d be lying to you if I said politics don’t play a part of who is going to get those last few spots. Yet I know many coaches who want the last few spots to go to kids who have modeled the best behavior and those who will cause the least amount of pushback.
PART II Know Your Kid. Is your kid a social athlete who puts in some time or as much time as the other kids but no more? That’s a Type B kid. If they get cut, after a so-so effort, they’ll probably be just fine as long as they can channel that social need into something positive and productive.
Type A kid is the one that we really feel badly for given all the time, effort and sacrifice this young athlete is putting in. The player is following the instructions of the coach, showing up at everything, nodding her head, yet they lack the size, skill, aggression, IQ or some combo of the above. Nettie and I discussed how heart-breaking it can be to tell your kid or have your kid learn that life isn’t fair sometimes.
Nettie said to make sure they ID the best part of the experience, which is that your child does have passion, respect, discipline, and a work ethic. Tell your child that he or she has made you so proud because of your child’s commitment. Find other sports that are more viable for your child. Many of our kids have made nice moves into rowing, track and field, and one big one as of late – ultimate frisbee. Another boy who was in love with hoops but only 5’8″ and knew the lacrosse players would get spots over him due to their length, took up acting and drama. Set the alternate ideas in motion early for the star players through the kid who may end up on the chopping block. You never know when an injury may steer a child in another direction. Keep all kids on the road by instilling the mindset that life is more than hoops.
PART III Work with the Coach. If your kid is depressed or having a rough go, and try-outs are coming up, it’s probably good form for the coach to reach out and risk taking heat. Or maybe you should reach out to the coach and state as soon as possible, “I’m not calling because I want you to put my kid on the team. I’m calling because I am worried about my child’s well being if he or she gets cut, and maybe it would be better to spare my kid that embarrassment.”
Nettie said she would recommend that more coaches get ahead of the option as opposed to having the blow up occur (and it will be public due to social media meaning there will be a lot of bragging and word will get out very fast). Coaches can offer alternatives for players who still want to be part of the team. Garry Munson did not make the team in grades 7 and 8, yet he tried out again and still didn’t make it in grade 9 and became the manager. He made it in grade 10 (after growing five inches) and then played in college. Maybe being the manager is not for your kid. Fine. Just know the coach hates this part of every year – try-outs – and they often don’t have the heart to tell the kids how hard it is because it’s always harder on the kids who get cut. Coaches should plan a pre-summer break chat on expectations and say, “I am sorry I won’t be able to keep everyone, but here are some tips on how to get ahead.” Then they should do fall optional open gyms and keep eye out for kids who may take tryouts harder than others. Then the moment of the cut, make sure they have what they are going to say planned, and be sure to offer the option for kids to come in to talk to the staff or teachers about suggestions on how to move forward.
Being a parent is tough because you don’t want to see your child suffer, yet you have to be honest about their work ethic, and also about how life is not fair sometimes. Ask them to assess what they felt happened. See if they feel like they earned it or not. If they didn’t put in any more time, it’s an easy conversation to have because bottom line is that the kids know the truth. Don’t blame the coach or the politics. If your kid was clearly good enough to make it, he or she would not be in such a tough spot. If they’re in that gray area of players #9-#20 and they have to cut five of those players, just be ready to re-direct because you may never know the reasons why.
Sorry that we couldn’t save the show! Here’s a longer article if you need more info. Nettie was great and we’ll do it again soon!
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Director & Founder of Mo' Motion
Maureen Holohan is a former college and pro player, published author, teacher and journalist. Maureen started Mo’ Motion in Manhattan in 2009 with one team of boys. Today Mo’ Motion serves 650 players per year with its offices in Harlem, NY.Read More