The Jockstrap: A Rite of Passage

A father-son bonding moment over sporting goods? Why not?

“This one is all yours,” Lisa said, handing me the Little League notice stating that all the boys in our son’s program must wear an athletic supporter and protective cup. My wife, who grew up with a sister but no brothers, is occasionally horrified by boy stuff, so procuring these particular pieces of baseball equipment for our 7-year-old, Alex, was going to be a father-son deal.

Alex and I hopped in the car and headed off to Modell’s. As we drove, I could tell that he wasn’t completely sure of the nature of our errand.

“What exactly are we getting, Dad?” he asked. “And where do I put it?”

I spent the majority of the short ride trying to explain to him what a jockstrap looked like and how the hard plastic cup fit (“No way!”), but he just couldn’t visualize it based on my descriptions. When he finally saw the stuff on the store shelf, he just laughed.

Back home, I showed him how to put it on. Alex thought his new gear was the greatest thing ever. It made him feel invincible. In fact, the first thing he did was run downstairs and dare his 3-year-old brother to punch him in the crotch. He wore it under his clothes for the rest of the day even though he didn’t have baseball practice.

It occurred to me at some point that this was a rite of passage, the first real recognition of his manhood, both literally and figuratively. So I didn’t protest when he insisted on wearing his cup in the Opening Day Little League Parade. (He was easily the most well-protected kid marching through downtown Needham that day.) But I drew the line when he asked if he could wear it to school.

I know the novelty will wear off soon. But for now, in his mind, wearing the cup has brought him one step closer to being a grown-up. After all, it’s the kind of thing that men do. And it makes me, too, feel like he’s not a little boy anymore.

I just hope, for his sake, that his little brother doesn’t catch him when he’s not wearing it.

— Photo ktylerconk/Flickr

About CJ Kaplan

CJ Kaplan is an EMMY® Award winning freelance writer living in the Boston area. His first book, Jews Clues: You're Doing It All Wrong, is available now. You can see samples of all his work at Contact


  1. Good topic, please revive it. 🙂

    • Am I misreading this, because on the majority of male – female puberty articles, it seems that men think they have the right to be included in the mother daughter period discussion, yet, it is being emphasized here that the mother is to automatically step aside and not expect to be included in the jockstrap time. You can also see that the dad dud not include the mom. But silly wives almost always include dad on sone celebration of the daughter’s period ? So wrong and so sexist.

      Why are we Americans so unfair to the daughters and moms this way. Why don’t moms of daughters give the daughters privacy like the dads give the sons? And no one here has commented otherwise.

  2. Great story. I think as parents we all have to go through something like this but it’s good to hear that little league are also having to wear jockstraps. I am launching a website in the UK to get more children protecting themselves at an early age with jockstraps so that they learn the benefits and keep themselves safe in the hope that this will continue in later life.

  3. Jameseq says:

    Rereading my post of a few hours ago, it could be read as a sarcastic post. It wasnt, my post was serious

  4. Jameseq says:

    Good point.

    Rites of passage for young boys and girls, and indeed pagentry has been lost from most western cultures. We live in an age where plain bread and water is a delicious delicacy.
    The onset of periods with the ability to gestate life seems more majesterial than growing facial hair, voice breaking, seminal fluid

    Yes i say. teenage boys need a return of a rite so they can be ceremonially inducted into manhood

    • You can have our periods, if you want. A rite of passage is rather romanticizing periods, isn’t it? Seems kind of silly to say periods mark womanhood, as many girls receive their periods at 12.

      • Jameseq says:

        There is more attention given to female puberty, which is understandable it’s more complicated with its bewildering range of Pads, tampons etc

        I dont want periods, it looks cumbersome. Why dont you want your periods.

        • But I seriously doubt any girl who gets her period feels as this little boy did getting his cup. Ask any girl how she felt when she started her period, and I’ll doubt she’ll tell you she ran all over proudly proclaiming her womanhood. More attention might be given, but by no means is that attention celebratory in fashion. Rather, it’s given more attention because periods are, by nature, quite messy, and if you want to avoid that messiness, you better be informed about pads, tampons, and all that.

  5. Roger Durham says:

    Great story, CJ. My sons are 26, 24 and 20, but I still remember those firsts, as if they were yesterday. What I can tell you is this – they are like building blocks – each “passage” lays a foundation for more meaningufl interactions with your son when the stakes are higher and the consequences more significant. Take every chance you can get to bond with your son. It will pay off down the road.

  6. Thank you for sharing this! My son is only 3 but I can see this is our future LOL! I also hope that his little brother doesn’t catch him when he is not wearing it. Great read for a Monday morning 🙂


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    […] that this was a rite of passage, the first real recognition of his manhood, bot […]…

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