Last night I went to the Pop Warner open house with the intention of signing up my foster son to play football, but when I got there I got talked out of it by the
Despite my reputation as a theatre person I spent most of my life making my living from sports. I loved playing and coaching baseball. I played volley ball up to last year and played football in high school. I worked with kids my whole life and
as in most things I am brutally honest, especially with my kids. This kid is
not the brightest kid I have ever had, but he runs like the wind. He has good
hands and what we used to call a nose for the ball. For his size he is a great
athlete. If I were coaching he would be a natural born running back. And maybe
he will be someday.
He played in the recreation flag football tournament and the kids who had all playedtogether before. He got the ball three times and he ran well, but they had him playing center so the in crowd kids could run and catch passes. ( he is 4’6’
and 100 pounds the worst center possible) The hard part was explaining to him
why the kids, when they certainly knew he was the better runner with the ball,
would not give him the ball. The answer was unfortunately, this is Barrington. That
is how it is.
I had been warned by a couple of parents in the past that Pop Warner, more than even other sports in town is about the coach, and who they liked. So I went to the open house to as the flyer stated in its final bullet point “have all my questions
answered”. Well I had a couple of questions.
I asked what chances a new kid; a foster kid would have of playing much on a team. I wanted to know if the coach stayed with his core players that he was used to playing with or was there a full draft or lottery each year to give new kids an even chance. He avoided the question a couple of times, I pressed for an answer.
He said “Yes coaches often used players that they have worked with for years, but they had to use all kids for a minimum of plays”. Well gee son you’ll get to play the minimum was not what really a good sales pitch.
Then he said well the kids who are quarterbacks know who the good kids are and will get the ball to them.” Well these were the same kids who knew he was better and didn’t give him the ball. I have worked with kids for 35 years and let me tell you, what kids know is who their friends are! And that is who they will give the
ball to without direction otherwise.
Then he said” there would be room for him at safety” That is like putting a little league kid in right field. (Little leagues never have powerful lefties that pull, and in Pop Warner football there are few Hail Mary passes)
After 2 minutes or so of trying to pin down answers which he did not appreciate he said if “I had these preconceived notions then perhaps the child should not play.” Well the kid wanted to play and was disappointed. For me his was the worst
sales pitch I heard since the guy called me to tell me last week that I need to
vote for Ron Paul because he was going to win the Republican nomination!
Somewhere along the line, it seems sports stopped being about kids. Just being a good player isn’t enough. In Barrington it is who your parents are, who the coaches are, what side of town you come from, resume building to get the right spot in freshman, then JV, and then Varsity football. All to parley into a well worded college essay to accompany a transcript. The pain today would be better than a whole season of watching people you are better than play while you were on the bench or in left field. Now try to explain that to a 12 year old boy from a not broken but destroyed home and no parents. That was how I spent my evening last night.
When I was the theatre director at the high school and we were popular we had 75-100 kids involved with the program. The powers that be told me to pick smaller cast sizes. I was cutting into the available kids for the 46 sports teams at the high school. I told one of the coaches that I was confused why they wanted some of these kids they were not great athletes. He said he needed them on the bench, and told me: “What if one of my real players gets hurt? What am I going to do then if those theatre kids aren’t on the bench? I looked at him puzzled. I will never understand that kind of mentality.
So when you sign your child up for Pop Warner, ask is your kids one of those kids destined to be on the bench before you pay them the money. It’s too bad though. This kid really wanted to play. And He will play. Just somewhere else.