Editor's note: Each week the Times Free Press will run a guest opinion column from Eli Cranor entitled "Athletic Support". Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author and the advice columns will revolve around youth sports. If you have questions or comments, please e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit elicranor.com.
Dear Athletic Support: My son is a late bloomer. Most of the kids on his football team are well on their way to becoming young men. My son is not. He doesn't even have hair on his legs! Is there a way I can keep him interested in playing football until his body catches up to his peers?
— Waiting For Puberty
Dear Puberty: I coached 7th Grade football for a few years. It was an experience I won't soon forget.
The undiluted energy. The fart jokes in the locker room. The way most of the boys looked like little bobblehead dolls in their helmets.
Let me be clear: "Most" of the boys looked like bobbleheads.
There were always a few that looked like full-grown men.
They had hairy legs and armpits. Their voices were as deep as mine. They were the kings of 7th grade ball.
As time went on, however, their reign came to an end. By high school, the playing field was level once again. Many of these former "kings" seemed to lose interest after losing their crowns. Sadly, some of them even quit the varsity team.
So, here's what you tell your son: Tell him to be patient. Tell him if he sticks it out, he'll be better for it. And finally, tell him that having hairy armpits doesn't make you cool!
Dear Athletic Support: Why are baseball and soccer becoming year-round sports? My sons are on travel soccer and baseball teams with their close friends. They love playing multiple sports. But when it's football season, football is our priority. I'm afraid they might fall behind, or if they're not there, they might put a strain on their other teams. Fall is already overloaded with extracurriculars. It would be so much simpler if soccer and baseball stuck to being spring and summer sports! — Manic Multi-Sport Momma
Dear Manic: In today's world of youth sports, it's easy to get overwhelmed. Seasons are getting longer, and like you mentioned, they're beginning to overlap. This, in turn, puts unreal expectations on both parents and young athletes alike.
The truth is, your boys can't participate in so many different sports at once. Not if you really want what's best for them.
Try taking a proactive approach and making some tough decisions prior to each season. Schedule a meeting where the whole family sits down with a calendar. Take a hard look at the time involved for each sport, including practices and games.
Be sure to let your boys have a voice in the matter. Ask their opinion about which sport they'd like to focus on for the upcoming season. Then, as a family, come to a decision on how to best spend your time and energy.
Once it's all said and done, I would urge you to make the outcome of this meeting non-negotiable. In other words, if one of your sons would like to switch his focus midway through the season — don't let him.
If you use this "manic" phase of your life to teach your kiddos lessons in time management, it will be well worth your time.