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"The Nuclear Option - by Joseph C. Phillips"

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I decided to take my number two sons’ football coach up on his request and join his “staff” as an assistant coach. The team had a rough year. Our boys played hard and our team managed to get into the playoffs where we were promptly run over by a team that out weighed us by about 50 pounds a boy. But I genuinely enjoyed myself as did my son. And after all, having fun is the point isn’t it? My question is sincere because after this season I truly am not sure. I am also of the opinion my uncertainty is shared by at least a few other parents.

My number one son also plays football; at least he used to before his mother and I pulled him off the team due to falling grades. He was enjoying a very good season; he had a great coach, was making friends, playing well and the team was winning. Unfortunately, he was not doing as well in school as his mother and I believe him to be capable. He was warned.

The first year of middle school is difficult for many boys. The work load increases as does the complexity of the work. More than a few straight "A" students go through a period of adjustment. As parents it is our job to act as a safety net for our children. If the problem is organization-- we will help our children get organized. If the problem is time we will make time. Whatever will give our kids the best opportunity for success, we will do because that is our job. “We will not take football away as punishment,” we explained. “We will take it away in order to give you more time and to focus your attention on the things that are most important. We will do it with love. We will do it with regret, but we will do it because it is our job.”

Our intervention made some marginal difference, but following two poor performances on tests we exercised the nuclear option and pulled the plug on his season. Lo and behold in the weeks since-- his grades have showed drastic improvement.

The question my wife and I ask is this: was our son the only boy to struggle with getting homework finished and turning work in on time? Or were we just the only parents to follow through on the threat to hang up the cleats? The answer is the former.

A mother of one of the boys on the team I coached shared with my wife that her son simply refused to do his homework. She was at a loss as to what to do. My wife’s jaw dropped and it was all she could do to contain herself.

Then there was this gem shared by another father and coach. A friend of his family and former successful athlete was invited to speak to his son and some of his sons’ friends. According to this father the gist of this athletes wisdom was that he hadn’t made a dime in school; he had made his entire fortune playing ball.

I will let that sit for a moment and marinate. I wasn’t certain what to say when I heard it and after retelling it I am still at a loss for words. A number of parents shared with us that their sons were experiencing similar difficulties with organization, time management and falling grades. None of them elected to pull their sons out of youth sports.

I do not share this in order to cast judgment on the way any other parent chooses to raise his/her children. Lord knows I am no expert! But this much I do know: I love my son dearly and love to watch him play ball. Right now he plays well, but does not impress me as the second coming of Lawrence Taylor. He does however, show flashes of genuine intellectual ability -- that is when he is not putting French fries up his nose or farting at the dinner table. He is articulate (can I say that about a black kid?) smart, creative and a great writer. There are many things young boys learn from organized sports, but it is still just for fun right? And isn’t playing ball something one does after having taken care of TCB?



Joseph C. Phillips is the author of “He Talk Like A White Boy” available wherever books are sold.


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