Got questions about life? Love? Parenting? Work? Write to Whit’s End, a new advice column by local husband, father, teacher, coach, former executive and former Marine Corps officer Al Whitaker.  Each week Al will address readers’ questions about anything ranging from school issues, coaching problems, relationship quandaries and more!  His experience is vast, and he holds a degree in psychology, too. To submit a question, email

Dear Whit:

My son is a good athlete and has played on his school sports teams and in rec leagues for years.  This year, he has a new coach at school who is barely playing him.  It kills me to see how heartbroken he is — frankly, depressed — about not getting any play.  I don’t think the coach realizes the devastating effect he is having on my son.

I want to call the coach and tell him about this, but my husband absolutely forbids me from doing so.  My son said the same thing.  What gives?  Is this about guy code?  It seems awful silly to me, after all, what is the value of school athletics?  Isn’t it to teach them a skill, give them exercise, and build their confidence?  Why not call the coach?

Confused about Guy Code

Dear Confused,

Like most parents, you want to help your son when he is hurting, especially when you believe that you could easily take care of the problem. You want to step in and make him and everything better, right?  But, you can’t because the time has passed when you can kiss his boo-boo and wipe the tears away.

You need to ask yourself what you want to accomplish by going to the coach. First, remember the Hippocratic oath to “do no harm” because it applies to parents too. What do you think the coach’s response will be? Most likely, he will resent parental interference because in all likelihood he will have told the players to talk to him directly about any problems or concerns. Remember, he’s not in rec-league anymore, so let him speak and fight for himself.

If your son has been playing school sports for years, I’m guessing that he is a teen-ager in high school and well past the age when his parents need to protect him. Some people say that fathers want to prepare their children and that mothers want to protect them. Whether that is true or not, you want your son to have plenty of practice making his own decisions when you can’t be there to look out for him. The sooner you start expecting him to think and do for himself, the sooner you will be able to have confidence that he can do just that.

Is this mentality part and parcel of “guy code”? If you mean not wanting his mother to “fight his battles”, then “yes”. But that’s not all it is, because you’d want your daughter to be just as capable and self-sufficient as your son. Your son’s coaches want him to come to them if he has a problem because he is the one who will have to take the measures to fix it, not you. One of the most important skills that sports teaches is taking responsibility for one’s behavior and one’s performance. When he reaches that point, your son will have the confidence in himself that he needs to be successful in his life as well as in his sports. That’s not guy code; that’s grown code.

3 replies on “Just How Much Should Kids’ Sports Matter?”

  1. Very ‘manly’ advice, Al. But it’s funny, because I know far more men than women who have berated a coach for not giving their sons ‘sufficient’ playing time.

  2. I agree. If the boy is unhappy about playing time he should talk to the coach, find out what the deal is, and try to make the situation better. He can also talk to his parents if he wants to, but the mother will be helping her son more by allowing him to find his own way to deal with this situation. The boy could learn something valuable about himself and life.

  3. Dr. Ben Carson said kids spend way too much on sports as their math & science score plumet to below those of the People Republic of China.

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