Dear Athletic Support: My son is wrapping up his first year of school-sanctioned athletics. He played football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and loved running the mile and pole vaulting this spring. My son is by no means one of the best athletes in his grade. Not by a longshot. But he did really enjoy this past year. Last week, I was just given the summer schedule for football and basketball by his coaches. Wowzers. They have a lot of stuff planned! There’s literally a camp or a tournament almost every week of the summer. We already have vacations planned (and paid for) on some of these dates. I’m worried if my son doesn’t make it to all the scheduled events, his playing time will get docked. I also feel like maybe this is too much for an 8th grader. If I force my son to complete this extreme schedule, I’m afraid he might burn out on athletics altogether. What should we do?
Dear Fun: When I was coaching I made an annual calendar. It listed every single event for the year, including the summer. I tried to get this out as early in the spring as possible, hoping to give my players’ parents enough time to plan ahead.
Despite all my planning, I still had players miss. It drove me crazy. I can vividly remember sitting in the coaches’ office, going on and on about how one of our players was taking a week-long vacation instead of attending one of our 7-on-7 tournaments.
Looking back on it now, I feel a little embarrassed. My heart was in the right place. I wanted to do things “right.” I wanted to win. But I wasn’t considering the big picture.
The big picture is that family comes first, especially in the summer. Vacations are where memories are made, so go have fun.
Keep in mind, however, that missing summer activities could impact your son’s playing time. I say “could” because if he’s one of the best players on the team, it won’t matter at all — he’ll still play. If he’s one of the worst, he’ll ride the pine regardless.
If he’s a border player, though, and he’s equally as good as a player who’s attended every practice/tournament all summer long, then that other kid will get the spot. That’s just the way it works.
In regard to burnout, I think that all depends on your son. Junior high athletics is more serious than 7th grade. More time is required the older an athlete gets. And, honestly, that’s the way it should be. In order to be the best at anything, you have to practice. A world-famous concert pianist doesn’t get to the top by taking summers off. The same is true in football.
You mentioned your son wasn’t “the best athlete.” If he’s in it just to have fun, then by all means, let him have fun. Go on vacation. Make it to all the summer practices you can, but don’t be surprised if your son is riding the bench when the season starts.