Football Advice. If I were in the advice business, including sports, no doubt I would receive an email like this one at some point.
Our son is 10, and may be the greatest football running back ever, but we don’t want to push him too hard. What should we do?
Harry & Harriet (H&H)
Let’s break this down. Greatest running back ever? There are a few who come to mind. Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson, Walter Peyton, Gayle Sayers, Eddie Lacey, etc.
I’m sure you don’t intend to, but when you say what you do about your son at his age, you already project expectations by the way you act, and your words. That equates to a ton or two of pressure on him already.
Having coached young kids, and watched our son play football at a major university with a legendary coach, I can tell you there’s no way on this earth you can know at his age how good he will be.
What kind of competition has he faced on the football field? If he hasn’t gone up against a good team yet, tell me how he fares when he does. They’ll know his reputation before everyone suits up for the game, and they will be looking to dismantle him. Whichever way he runs, four or five on the other team will be waiting for him. They intend to see he is not the headlines if the community paper writes about the game. They don’t care if the QB can pass the ball well, and beats them with TD passes or another running back runs all over the field, the guy with the reputation will be the guy they’re looking for.
Even in high school if your son runs out of the stadium every time he gets the ball, he might be good, or it might be the level of competition. Hold your vote on the best running back ever.
When he gets to a college or university, if it’s a very good team, the others on his team will be four and five-star recruits. I’ve never heard of a six-star recruit, so he will be among his equal, and they have a way of grounding him if he’s become a jerk along the way. If he thinks he’s been hit hard in high school, when those 330 and 340 pound college defensive linemen don’t get him, the 230-240 pound linebackers will. Big defensive linemen grab you ever how they can, but linebackers use finesse about the way they tackle, coming in at just the right angle for max effect, and it does affect you, believe me.
Tell your boy to have fun playing the game while he’s young. Don’t tell him what you expect from him. Let him tell you by what he does. His team will win some, and lose some. Never be too happy or sad, because it happens. Just tell him he’s getting ready for life, and life tackles you sometimes when you’re running to score that winning TD.
More than once at high level university football games, I saw and heard a very obnoxious parent of one of the players. I could only imagine what that guy put up with his entire sports life, probably starting around nine or ten.
Don’t be like that now. Grab you a seat in the bleachers if there are any. If not, bring you a folding chair to the game. Sit back, and smile and frown when the situation calls for it, without saying a word. Above all else, don’t tell everybody how great your kid is. Tell other parents how great their kids are. If somebody compliments your kid, thank them. Your kid will be just as proud of you, as you are of him.
When you’re sitting around the supper table at night, emphasize to him how much character means, how much pride means. A frequent conversation about that will be good for everyone concerned, because any major university will look at that before they consider how good he is on the football field, and what kind of parents he has. If he’s messing with drugs, forget college football. If he’s constantly in trouble, forget college football. If he’s got an attitude, forget college football. He doesn’t have to be a saint, but it darn well wouldn’t hurt.
Your boy the greatest running back ever? The odds are against it, but be proud of him whatever he is. Football’s short in duration, the rest of life is long. How you act now will affect both of those.
Do you have a different opinion? Send me a comment.
Who knows, I might need to be in the advice business.