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Family and Sports

Like many, recently I was intrigued with the story about Adam LaRoche and his son Drake. LaRoche was the first basemen for the Chicago White Sox and had been a long time major league ballplayer. His 14 year old son has been his constant companion at the ball park for years. When he signed his contract with the White Sox, he worked out an arrangement to be able to bring Drake with him to the park daily. Drake even had his own locker and uniform. Apparently, Drake had been accompanying his father to the ballpark most of his life and was well mannered and respected by his father’s teammates. However, this spring, the White Sox general manager, Kenny Williams, decided Drake was at the ballpark too much and asked Adam to cut back on the amount of time Drake was with him. Adam didn’t agree with this request because it went against his original agreement with the White Sox. Rather, than going along with this request, he abruptly retired, giving up a $13 million salary. It has been well documented that he has made over $70 million in his baseball career, so financial concerns were not an issue for him. His statements have emphasized that his son is his best friend and that he wants to be around him as much as possible, and that this was more important to him than playing this year for the White Sox.

One of the issues that this has come to mind for me with this situation has been the relationship between family and sports. Over the years I have spoken with numerous people who have had conflicts with their child’s sport participation when it conflicted with a family activity. As Mother’s Day is approaching, it brought to mind a situation that occurred several years ago. When my sons played premier soccer, their teams played in tournaments on Mother’s Day. Several parents complained about this when the coach discussed the schedule, emphasizing that this should be a day about family, but the team played in the tournament anyway. Several years ago a mother called my radio show discussing her 8th grade daughter’s conflict after she tried out and made the high school cheer squad. The coach had a meeting for the parents and stated that practices were mandatory accept for severe illness or hospitalization. The mother told the coach that they were going on a cruise for her parents 50th wedding anniversary over the winter break. The coach told them that they would be having practice over the break (even though school was not in session for two weeks) and that it was mandatory to be there with no exceptions. The mother explained the situation and that this trip had been planned for several years. The coach made it very clear either she came to practice and was part of the team, or would be kicked off the team if she went on the cruise. Even though her family had a long history at the school, her daughter transferred to another school, and made the cheer squad there. Her mother explained the cruise situation to the coach at this school. The coach told her family activities like this were more important and that her daughter should go on the cruise and would have her spot on the team when she returned. They had voluntary practice over the winter break, and weren’t penalized if they didn’t attend.

As school is about to end, and the summer break begins, the conflicts about practices, games and family activities will occur. Obviously, if your child is on a team, it is important to have that pre-season meeting and discuss with the coaches what the schedule will be and what the attendance requirements are regarding practices and games. Once you know the team schedule, you should communicate with the coaches about any conflicts you may have, especially if it is a family activity. Most coaches are going to want all their athletes at practices and competitions, but I believe it is your responsibility as a parent to bring up the potential conflicts before the season starts and decide what the priority should be. As a parent of two adult children, this was an issue we discussed numerous times and in the end, my sons and I decided that family should always come first,
but we made sure that any conflicts were always discussed with the coach at the beginning of the season. As always, your thoughts…