A similar column to this one ran years ago in the Bourbon News-Mirror. In the last couple years I have been asked to reprint it by several parents, and because I can’t find the original, I looked for it and I think this (a rough draft found on my home computer) is pretty close to it.
In large school districts sports teams are made up of the very best of the best, the cream of the crop; it’s survival of the fittest. Just as many will go home with their tail between their legs as there will be those that will be fitted for uniforms.
In small school districts, there are more opportunities for player hopefuls but they have a higher risk of becoming victims of “Daddy’s Little Hero” syndrome. For some strange reason, this affliction seems only to affect male coaches; the females are normally honest enough with themselves and their children to prevent them from becoming the sport’s laughingstock or the focus of resentment of every other player and their parents.
The ailment causes the coach to see only through a “daddy (and sometimes an uncle) filter” through which only the young relative is the best person for the most desired of positions — regardless of their personal desires or abilities. Perhaps they feel they were short-changed as a child … picked last for the dodgeball team in gym class too many times.
Maybe they feel they can’t tell junior “no” without requiring years of therapy. In reality, the child, unless he (or she) truly is the best for that position, usually gets harassed by his jealous teammates who — if they’ve played together for any length of time — know who is best in each role and know that he (or she) is only there because of his personal relation to the coach.
The favored player normally knows they shouldn’t be there and will act sullen or ungrateful for the offering. If he didn’t his peers would eat him alive or silently (or not so silently) resent him forever.
When watching these children stumble through the motions of their ill-fitting position it’s achingly apparent just how badly the kids have been sorted and how blatant the coach’s favoritism. Over the years I have personally witnessed proofs of this type of mismanagement to extents so appalling that I couldn’t fathom why the coaches weren’t embarrassed, or how their wives were brave enough to venture into the crowd. After all, it’s a wife’s duty to tell their husband when he is screwing up, and when they don’t listen, to steer clear of him when he’s in public. I’ve watched pitchers who should’ve been in the outfield, first basemen who should’ve been catching and saw catchers that should’ve played infield. I’ve seen kids at bat having such an awful time (they’d much rather be swimming or playing piano) that they are shaking and the look of relief glows on their face as they walk to the dugout after being struck out.
I’ve watched half and back wings play linemen and saw those that could’ve run the ball as quarterbacks like they had Velcro hands and snapping pit bulls on fire at their heels sitting the bench. I’ve watched swimmers that I’m pretty sure are wearing lead in their suits get lapped and I’d watched tiny ballerinas crying because they hate the shoes and the stage be shoved into performing.
It’s an embarrassment for everyone.
Coaches, the parents see it, and not just the ones that know their kid is the one that should hold that spot. Other parents comment, “Why isn’t so-and-so playing ____?” (fill in position here). Parents within hearing range agree and moan and wonder how much money the coach donated to the school or who he knows that put him where he is. When opposing teams and their fans comment on how mismanaged your team is, you know it’s pretty bad. And why do coaches think that just because big sister was a sports hero that little sister can do anything beyond walking and chewing gum at the same time? Skill isn’t in a name.
Coaches, I beg of you — ask yourselves why you are coaching. Is it because you want to see your daughter blast one out of the park because she can, or because you think only you will coach her best? Is she talented and you just want to bask in her glory? You can do that from the sidelines or bleachers.
Do you coach because you’ve been doing it for a number of years before your relative came in to it or because you love the game? Then carry on. If you have any reason to want to have your family member get an advantage then that’s also the wrong reason. So is the fact that you played (or play) the sport so junior should too.
Pretend you don’t know your favorite player any more than the others. Let each child play each position at least twice (everybody has their bad days and having only one chance often doesn’t reflect talent or ability) and actually watch them at all those positions and play them where they belong. Unless of course you find one that it’s painfully obvious that the child should be an athletic supporter, not a player wearing one. Nothing, aside from abuse of course, makes me as angry at parents I don’t even know than when I see a player who looks like they would like to be anywhere but where they are doing anything but what they are.
Then, use your best judgement for filling positions … even if your “little hero” begs for his or her favorite one. Then, don’t ask your fellow coaches their opinions — they probably have their own “little heroes” on the team … ask the players who should be where.
If they aren’t pee-wees or first year players they WILL know. If your and their views differ greatly then check yourself. What benefit is it to them if your child is “daddy’s little hero” and he or she is always on the losing team ... especially if it’s the one you’re coaching?