Dear Athletic Support: My son will be a sophomore on the high school football team next year. He’s spent this whole semester lifting weights and training with the varsity team. It’s been quite an eye-opener. He’s still not sixteen yet, so I have to pick him up from the field house most afternoons. One day, I was sitting in my truck, watching all the players come out, and I realized just how wide a gap there was in the maturity between the boys on the team. I don’t mean mental maturity. I’m talking about facial hair and pectoral muscles. I’m talking about the difference between boys and men. My son definitely falls into the “boy” category. And from what he’s told me about his experience this offseason, he’s paying the price for it. Not only are the varsity boys much bigger and farther along into (or completely done with) puberty, but they’re also mean as snakes. Seniority is a huge deal on this team. The incoming sophomores are treated like lower-class citizens. They’re always at the back of the lines. They get last pick of the equipment. And they even have to refill the upperclassmen’s water bottles during workouts. I didn’t think stuff like this still went on in locker rooms. It sure doesn’t seem like the best way to build a “team-first” mentality. Should I go talk to the coach? — Seniority Sucks
Dear Seniority: I’ve never been a fan of seniority.
During my playing days, I bucked it every chance I got. When I became a coach, I flipped the script and bumped the youngest players to the front of the line. I even had the seniors serve the sophomore meals during our pregame meals. The only people who ate before the sophomores were the managers, filmers, and water girls.
Some of the seniors hated it, especially my first year. After all, they’d spent their whole career waiting to be at the top of the food chain.
But my message was clear.
I wanted the youngest players, those that were newest to the team, to feel welcomed. I wanted them to be shown how to act. That way, when they became seniors, they wouldn’t hesitate to serve.
To me, this was a way to build that “team first” mentality you mentioned, but every coach is different.
Whether or not you need to address this with your son’s coach is up to you. I would, however, keep a close eye on what’s going down in that field house.
If you ever feel like bullying or hazing is taking place, then you have every right to address the coach. If he won’t budge, you should schedule a meeting with the proper administrator.
Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. His debut novel, Don’t Know Tough, is available wherever books are sold. Send in questions for “Athletic Support” by using the “Contact” page at elicranor.com.
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