Don't argue with son over T.O.

ASK CAL

use his indiscretions as teaching tools

December 31, 2006|By CAL RIPKEN JR.

DEAR CAL -- Terrell Owens is my son's favorite player in any sport. I don't think he's a good role model. Should I try to do something about my son's liking him, or just leave it alone?

Jimmy Nall, Evansville, Ind.

DEAR JIMMY -- There is a lot that can be learned watching an athlete like T.O. perform. For good or bad, there also is a lot that can be learned by watching his off-field behavior.

If you tell your son over and over that he shouldn't admire Owens, he might root even harder for him. Instead, sit with your son and watch Owens play. Compliment Owens' athleticism, but also point out the behavior that you don't approve of and explain why you see it as inappropriate. Also, bring attention to the athletes whom you do admire and explain why. Then, your son might be more open to what you have to say.

DEAR CAL -- Our 11-year-old daughter plays rec league basketball. Most of the girls are still small, but last week we played a team that had a girl who was big and aggressive. You can't fault her for that, but she was clearly oversized and overskilled for this level of play. Several of our players got hurt, including one who will miss the rest of the season. When our coach tried to get the referees to get the game under control, they told him to go to the sideline and be quiet. Should rec leagues be multi-tiered so that better players play one another and then others, who just want to play for fun, can also play without fear of getting steamrolled? And, if players of different skill levels are mixed, shouldn't the refs keep the games under control to protect kids from injury?

Marcy Baer, Towson

DEAR MARCY -- It's no secret that young athletes mature emotionally and physically at different rates. It seems as though many leagues hold an evaluation and then a draft for each age group in hopes of spreading the talent throughout the league. While the intentions are pure, there is no question that coaches draft their kids' friends and that deals are made so that certain kids can play together. This often can skew a league's competitive balance.

While making sure that the kids have fun and get to play with friends should be an objective of rec leagues, this should not be done in such a manner that it creates physical mismatches in which injuries are likely. It also isn't healthy when a few teams either totally dominate the rest of the league or are so weak that the games are not fun for them or their opponents.

Instead of age-based evaluations, I prefer getting all of the kids from across several age groups together for a clinic. The players could be evaluated without them even knowing it. The leagues then could be tiered, as you suggest, with players of similar size, maturity and skill grouped together.

When it comes to officials, you have to keep in mind that many of them volunteer their time. If they are getting paid, it isn't very much. Officials at all levels make mistakes, so don't expect your rec officials to be any different.

I would suggest leaving the officials alone for the most part unless a situation like you have described, in which the game becomes dangerous, arises because of uneven officiating. When this occurs, it is the coach's responsibility to call a timeout or wait for a break in play. He or she then should approach the official in a respectful, professional manner, explaining his or her feelings.

In most cases, the official should respond in a similar manner. If the official ignores the coach or is disrespectful, the coach should leave the official alone for the rest of the game and then bring the situation to the attention of the league commissioner.

Have a question or issue arising from your involvement in youth sports? Send it by e-mail to askcal@baltimoresun.com.

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