My Son Didn’t Start Today

My son is 9.  His name is Nate.  He LOVES sports.

In football this year, he led the team in touchdowns . . . . and tackles.  In baseball, he was the starting short stop, and hit the ball further than anyone in the whole league.   In soccer, nobody on his team scored more goals last Spring.  He’s an athletic kid.

2 years old. Loved sports from the get go!

Nate has played 4 seasons of basketball, 1 season of baseball, 1 season of soccer, and 3 seasons of flag football.  And because he’s the biggest kid on the team (every single season, not one teammate has been taller on any of those 9 teams), he’s usually been one of the best kids.

From 2015, love his intensity.

It doesn’t hurt that he was at a high school football game the fifth day he was alive; I was a Head Football Coach at the high school level at the time, 2006.  He’s grown up around the fields and gyms as I’ve been a high school Athletic Director for 6 of his 9 years.

They’ve had two basketball practices this year, today was their first game.  I’ve been to both practices.  I told my wife after the first one, “well this is going to be an interesting season for Nate.  He’s not the best player on the team this year.”  I’ve got a very realistic view of my kid’s talent.  I know that most of his success so far has been because of his size.

The first year he played basketball, his team would win 14-4 or 18-12, and Nate would score 10 or 14 points.  The coach LOVED him.  But look how easy it was for him to score! He was a giant!!

The biggest kids are usually going to score the most points! I get that. Guess which one is Nate?! This was his first year playing basketball. 2013

The next year, his coach told him to shoot a whole lot more than I thought he should.  I would tell him to pass the ball more, so other kids would have a chance, and he would say “Dad, my coach told me not to, cause the other kids can’t make them like me.”

So I was worried about how he would react to the first time he wasn’t “the man” on this team, the first time he wasn’t a starter.  I wondered when that would be.

For the first time ever my son didn’t start today.  

Today when I watched the coach sit the whole team down on the bench, and then call out 5 of the 9 and 10 year olds to take the court, my son wasn’t picked.  Nate was one of the three left on the bench.  My heart kind of sunk.  For my kid.


I was worried about this day, when he wasn’t the best kid, or at least one of the top ones on the team.  I was worried  for my kid.  How would he react?  I’ve been working with unrealistic parents for 15 years as a high school football coach.  I definitely DO NOT want to be THAT dad!  So, I wasn’t worried about me, I was worried about my son.

And you know what?

He NEVER even mentioned not being a starter, not one time today did he even hint at it.  I even tried to get him to.  “What was your favorite part of the game?”   “What was your least favorite?”  “What was the best thing?”  “What was the worst thing?”

His favorite part: “We won!”

Least favorite: “The one basket I missed.”  (He did score 2 points)

The best thing: “We won!”

Worst thing: “That the game was over.”

Parents: your kids will be fine if they don’t start!  As long as you’re fine!!!

If you’re teaching your kids all along the way that the TEAM > i, then when he doesn’t start, it won’t be a big deal.

If you’re teaching your kid to shake the coach’s hand, and say thank you after every single practice and game, he will have a healthy respect for his coach; it won’t matter when he doesn’t start.

If you teach your kid that every single person has a role to play on a team, starting at a young age, then it won’t be a big deal when he doesn’t start.

If you teach your kid to “just play hard and have fun,” then it won’t be a big deal when he doesn’t start.

If you use teachable moments while watching the NFL to teach your child that you don’t always get what you want, it won’t be a big deal when he doesn’t start.

I was more proud of my son today then I ever have been.  He was the only one on the bench standing and cheering for his teammates.



And this afternoon, while there was a commercial break during the NFL game, I asked him why he likes to cheer so much for his team when he isn’t in the game.  This little 9 year old looked up at me and said “Dad, I like to treat others the way I want to be treated.”

For the first time my son didn’t start today, and I couldn’t have been more proud!


Author Chris Fore is a veteran football coach and athletic director from Southern California.  He has a Masters degree in Athletic Administration, is a Certified Athletic Administrator, and is on the California Coaches Association Board.  Eight Laces Consulting, his business, provides dynamite resources for coaches.  He is the author of An Insider’s Guide To Scoring Your Next Coaching JobBuilding Championship Caliber Football Programs,and the Outside The Lines Manual for Football Coaches.b


16 thoughts on “My Son Didn’t Start Today

  1. That is awesome brother. Great stuff! I raised all three of my daughters the same way… They too played sports, softball the most dominant. I coached each of them since they were 5 years old and through High school. I coached in every Park league, school and eventually coached Downey High Softball. 19 years of coaching. Tried to teach what your son has to all the kids.. its “those” parents that mess things up. Many of the kids have stayed in contact with me, my wife and daughters up to this day.. many married with kids now.. what a joy to teach the right things. Congrats to you and your son. Be blessed. MUSTANGS!! HoooRah!


  2. Congratulations ! With attitudes such as these, expressed here, … it’s enjoyable to be on, … ‘either side’.


  3. Sharing this in the hopes that I was that kind of parent. We all can be that kind of parent. The best is yet to come. Parents, grandparents and guardian angels that volunteer, Bless all of you that make everyone on the team a part of the game.


  4. I also work at a Lasallian school and so I am not at all surprised with this great write up/ blog. As a coach and I parent, I couldn’t share this quickly enough. Thanks!


  5. “And this afternoon, while there was a commercial break during the NFL game, I asked him why he likes to cheer so much for his team when he isn’t in the game. This little 9 year old looked up at me and said “Dad, I like to treat others the way I want to be treated.”

    Hey dad, he was in the game, he just wasn’t on the floor.


  6. Thank you for sharing. I read this and wished I could share it with the parents who used foul, degrading and accusatory language towards me and my coaches after their 6’5″ 13 year old boy was not placed on the competitive baseball team. Their demand to us was “place our son on the A team” or refund our money. I gladly refunded it. They are used to coaches submitting to them because their kid is big and athletic. They are parent bullies. In the end, it was the kid who lost. He was having fun playing with his friends in the less competitive team and his parents ruined it. The sad thing is parent bullies like the example above don’t believe they have a problem. Thank you again- Go Salesian! I grew up in Boyle Heights, attended Roosevelt High, and my heart will never leave. Best wishes to you.


  7. I only wished that all young men had this kind of attitude and then just maybe sports would be fun again and money wouldn,t be the most important thing to the game.


  8. Thank you for sharing. I was a 3 sport athlete in high school (something that is rare today b/c of “specializing” in a sport). I started in field hockey and softball, but “shined the pine” in basketball. However, it was a great life experience…

    There are a lot of great life lessons to be learned from sitting on the bench. One can learn a lot about the game by watching. One can have fun cheering on one’s teammates. One can learn patience, determination, and work ethic.

    I was named co captain my senior year for our basketball team. I never started one game. My parents didn’t give me a false sense of self–I knew I wasn’t good enough to start–I wasn’t tall or fast, but I worked hard enough to be 7th person in. And I didn’t quit b/c I enjoyed playing w/my friends, loved teamwork, and helped my team by leading from the bench. I pushed the starters in practice, so we could be better.

    It drives me crazy when kids quit sports b/c they don’t want to sit out. Or when parents argue that their kid deserves to start/play more. There’s a lot to learn from sitting out and not starting.


  9. That is very well said – thank you for sharing. After 25+ years of working in college athletics, I get to see the crazy parents once the kid leaves high school and the story is very much the same. As a parent of 3-sport athlete’s, it is refreshing to see someone with similar values instead of the screaming lunatics that permeate youth, high school and college sports today. Great job Dad!


  10. Great…great…great…I have always tried to teach my kids to be part of the team. This year I played my 9 year old daughter up an age group in softball. She grew up on a ball field much like your kid and had always been the best player on the team. She is now playing with 12 year olds…they have accepted her…she has contributed to the team…and I bet she is developing quicker because she isn’t the “best on the team”


  11. I love this and I’m showing it to or 4H Club parents. As a youth organization leader, I’ve seen multiple kids messed up by their parents’ attitude of perfectionism and projection of their bad, dysfunctional attitudes onto their children. Life is so much more then getting blue ribbons. Kids need to learn to learn from NOT getting blue ribbons, and then doing good in the world and building their sense of fulfillment and self-worth by sharing their knowledge and skills by teaching them to younger kids and watching those kids succeed and supporting them encouraging them to persist when they stumble.


  12. Great story! Something I will file away as I start my season as a h.s. head softball coach! I hope many parents, wherever they be, are able to read it!!!


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