An Objectivist Parenting Decision

Posted by  $  Abaco 9 months, 1 week ago to Philosophy
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So, thought I'd get my fellow Objectivist's thoughts. I have a son, 12. It appears he wants to quit his soccer team. For a long time, he has been asking the coach to put him in at forward so he can score goals. But, the coach repeatedly plays him in defense. My son's the fastest on the team. They had a 40-yd race at practice last week and he beat all the other players by a good 5 yards or more. Two weeks ago my son got pulled from a game because he took a soccer ball to the head. When he told the coach he was ready to go back in it just so happened that the position that needed to be filled was at forward. The team was getting killed, down 4-0 just before half time. With a minute or so left my son took a pass, raced by the opposing players and kicked a goal. Since being cubby-holed in defense for a few years in the sport it was his first outdoor goal ever. I wasn't there, but I understand the crowd went nuts, and it was clear he was a good offensive weapon. Since that halftime on we're back to the same thing - stuck on defense. Well, my son has a love of golf and it's pretty clear to me that he'd rather go practice that and play in tourneys than continue to play golf. He's been hinting this at me for a couple weeks now. You first reaction is the ole "You need to stick to commitments...blah, blah, blah..." (the stuff I was raised on). But, you know what? I think my message will be, "Don't be committed to those who aren't committed to you", and encourage him to quit mid-season to pursue golf.

In my boy's case, he has suffered with substantial developmental problems since a year old. He has fought through it and recovered so well that he and I were included in an international documentary on the subject. He's come a long, long way and I'm very proud of him and what we've accomplished. But, early in soccer, 7 years ago or so, he was stuffed in as a defender because he was really struggling. Now, he's a serious offensive threat but the coach won't play him on offense. Of course, the coaches son plays on offense.

Anyway...I think there are some real lessons here and I appreciate your input.

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  • Posted by  $  jlc 9 months, 1 week ago
    I like that Thoirtsu and others made game-and-parenting knowledgeable responses. As a non-parent, non-team-player, I ask: How much do you want him to internalize 'playing with a team'?

    While I respect the people who advised that learning how to use your skills to play a less-flashy-social-feedback defensive position is essentially good, I will point out that being able to tell someone, "Don't like you; don't like your face; leaving Kansas; taking the dog." is also an important social skill.

    The Gulch represents a group of people who are not normative. Most of us have learned to 'pass' in order to get along in the world. If your son has learned to 'pass' in the last 7 years, then it might be time for the lesson: Vote with your feet.

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  • Posted by CaptainKirk 9 months, 1 week ago
    let me come at this differently than the other comments.

    1) Go with the Golf. he can play this "sport" well into his senior years, and a LOT of business has been done on the greens... Golf or Tennis are the 2 recommendations I have heard. Both can be enjoyed for some time, lots of people to play.

    2) Teachable Moment. Have your son respectfully meet with the coach and ask for what he wants. Play offense 1/2 the game? Full time. And explain why! Also, have some idea of what the coach would expect from him (not hogging the ball, etc.).
    Learning to ASK for what I want helped me DOUBLE my income. I have a unique set of talents, and when people see them, they know what they are worth, and I was under pricing myself severely without realizing it.
    The WORSE thing that could happen? Coach kicks him off the team. Problem Solved.
    He should NOT mention he will leave the team. This should not be about threatening someone to get what you want. Ultimatums are always bad.
    He needs to know how to anticipate the possible answers.
    He could START the conversation by asking "Why don't you put me on offense?" And "What will it take for me to play Offense?"
    Then he can close with "Thanks for your time!" Regardless of the outcome. Because this coach is probably coaching for free. And he is human. His problem is that he probably remembers your son from his early years, and that impression is stuck.

    3) I remember reading an article about how Professional Soccer Players end up with some weird debilitating disease later in life. These guys can't stand up. Not sure about it... I instantly thought about all of the exposure to deep breathing heavy pesticides for hours catching up with them.

    4) As a father, what is important is that your son takes responsibility for HOW he chooses to handle this. If his leaving causes the team to have to forfeit all of the remaining games, or something like that, he should be aware of it, and acknowledge how he feels about that. (The answer to that would be very telling for me). This is a tough one. Quitting is easy. Sticking to your commitments (we are talking months, not years here),
    is really important. Most of the kids I knew growing up that learned they could quit when things did not go their way... Well, they are dead, jailed, paroled, or junkies (rough neighborhood, admittedly).

    5) Your son changed, the coach did not. The coach is doing what he has always done. Maybe the coach has a good reason for putting your son where he is. I always try to give others the benefit of the doubt until they prove they are Communists

    BTW, my daughter was 12 when I had her read Atlas Shrugged... (hint, hint)... :-)

    Best of luck. I love when people reach out and ask for advice while parenting. Because at some level, we have to fake a lot this just to maintain our own sanity. My mom had 4 boys, and the older I got, the more I felt bad for her...
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  • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 9 months, 1 week ago
    I was a student of Objectivism long (16-yr old) before I became a parent (at 30). I had read books on parenting that were favorably reviewed in Ayn Rand's magazines. After it was all over - my daughter is now 35 - and looking back on it, allow me to add a couple of corollaries.

    (1) Children make their own choices. You have to guide and protect them from their worst choices. (We had a cartoon on the fridge from The New Yorker "No, you cannot camp out overnight in Central Park.") But, ultimately, they have to learn to make their own way in the world.

    (1.a.) I agree that learning to play on a team under a coach is important to learning to play on a team under a coach. In fact, "Kindergarten soccer" is what we call a bad team -- say in software development -- where everyone wants to chase the ball at the same time.

    (1.b.) That said, there's always lots of teams. Maybe your son needs to find one that puts him in the position he thinks that he is best for.
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  • Posted by  $  Thoritsu 9 months, 1 week ago
    I am a long-time defender. I started center defender (stopper) on the 1984 U19 National Championship team, and I've generally been the fastest person on the team.

    The fastest person is often on defense. Speed and determination matter more on defense than skill, particularly for youth players. On offense, control, head-up and speed with the ball (while dribbling) is more important. At 12, no one on the field can run full speed with the ball. As they learn to pass, the game opens up. Around 16-19 some people will learn to really move with speed with the ball, and if they pass, things start to get interesting.

    I suspect your son's coach is playing your son on defense because he is reliable there, and can catch anyone. This is a critical position for the team, and although not as flashy, it wins games. Just a guess. Unless your son's coach is a schmuck (and he might be), he i playing his son up front, because his son has better ball control and passing skills.

    A fast defender can often play a good winger, going to goal on a through pass (I bet this is how your son scored), or carrying the ball down the wing and crossing it.

    I suggest you speak to the coach about your son's interest, and ask him to play your son on offense (recommend wing) sometimes, and maybe practice him in this roll with a through-pass / cross style. Separately, I suggest you speak to your son, and reinforce the value of defense.

    I love to tease little twinkle-toed offense guys about how pretty they look, and tell them the real men are on D. "Come on sweetie, need a man to come with you and finish your beers?" All in fun, not nasty teasing. After playing now for ~40 years, I can play pretty good offense too.
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  • Posted by gharkness 9 months, 1 week ago
    Sounds to me that your son has learned the important lessons of playing where he was put and cooperating with his team. However, there is a limit and if he's not happy, what is he doing there? (I would say something different if this was his first year...but SEVEN years? That's long enough.)

    This certainly doesn't appear to be the classic case of a kid bouncing from one activity to the next and giving up because he's not the star of the show. Sounds to me like he has put his all in for a long time now.

    There's a limit to how much we can "encourage" a kid to stick with something. Let him try golf. It might give him what he needs. If it doesn't and he misses soccer....maybe there's a different soccer club he could join? I don't think it sounds like this coach deserves to have a player like your son on his team.
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  • Posted by  $  allosaur 9 months, 1 week ago
    Me dino done raised my brood, who are now out terrorizing stegosaurs everywhere.
    Why allow your son to endure a situation in which he feels unhappy over his potential being unfilled?
    I'd inform that coach that he's about to lose a player just to see how he reacts.
    I'd also advise my son not to buy into any namby pamby blather about duty to the team.
    That's grown up armed services stuff should he as a mature adult chose to get into that later.
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  • Posted by CircuitGuy 9 months, 1 week ago
    How serious is this commitment? A season feels long when you're 12. I wonder if it's reasonable to expect people that age to commit. What if some minor life change, like a parent having to work extra shifts, makes it harder for the 12 y/o to keep the commitment? So if it's not a solemn promise, I think he should look the coach in the eye and tell him he has to give his "two weeks notice" or whatever it is unless he can change position. Two weeks notice is standard even for important adult jobs, so it seems like that should be okay for soccer. If the coach gives into this ultimatum, however, he should finish the season unless something else comes up.

    Having a 12-y/o with a history of developmental issues initiate this tough conversation may be too much to ask. If he manages to do it graciously, he developmentally way ahead of most kids.
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  • Posted by chad 9 months, 1 week ago
    Listing priorities always helps to make clear what would be the best choice. Does your son prefer golf? Then do it. What is important to learn is that if you like something pursue it to the end which means enduring losses, failures and celebrating successes. There is nothing to be learned from pursuing something you don't desire. Don't concern yourself with punishing the coach; i.e., 'Ha' ha' you lose a good player.' Pursue what you desire and follow thru because even if you like it, there will be difficult disappointing days.
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  • Posted by  $  blarman 9 months, 1 week ago
    My brother was in much the same situation, but playing high school football. As a sophomore he was a terror - 6'4" and over 200 lbs playing defensive line. He was such a problem that opposing teams had no choice but to double-team him with center and guard, allowing the other lineman to repeatedly get into the backfield for sacks and tackles for loss. And he was so tall opposing quarterbacks couldn't throw over him. He was a game-changer in every sense.

    The problem: the coach played MASSIVE favorites on the team. They had a full squad (over 80 kids) but the coach played five guys (including two linemen) on both sides of the ball. Inevitably, they'd go up by three touchdowns every game only to lose in the fourth quarter (when my brother would finally get playing time) because their guys were too tired to keep going. My brother decided he'd had enough and went into debate instead, where he enjoyed terrorizing the 5'2" girls simply by staring them down. (He's now 6'9" and over 300 lbs).

    So my advice: if your son's soccer coach is too blind to see the benefit of your son, let him go somewhere else. That's the market in action.
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  • Posted by coaldigger 9 months, 1 week ago
    I would tell my son that the coach is playing him where he thinks he needs him most and it is his responsibility to perform at his assigned position to the best of his ability. At 12 it is more important to learn the game and to learn to enjoy it than to kick the ball in the net. When the defenders stop the opponent, control the ball, pass to forwards in the scoring zone and it results in a score the goal goes to the team. Whose contribution is greater? Who can win without the others?
    It is not unusual for every kid and every parent involved in a youth sport to think that the coach is favoring his son and that may or may not be true. What is true is that coach is giving up a lot of his time to support a youth program in your community for no monetary compensation and needs to be cut some slack. If he is being unfair, that's on him. His son is only one player and needs 10 other guys to play. So, if you like soccer there is plenty of opportunity to play. Deciding to play or not is your son's decision. Deciding where he plays is the coach's decision. Sports are like that-----so is life.
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    • Posted by  $  9 months, 1 week ago
      I agree - but 2 minutes at forward over 4 years under this coach? Then, it comes down to what's reasonable. And, that's what I hope to teach my son - Play on this team, don't get to score any more goals. Your choice. Reminds me of the last job I left.
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      • Posted by coaldigger 9 months, 1 week ago
        I am not saying that the coach is right or wrong, just that he is the coach. He answers to the league not the kids or the parents. Like you said this is like a job you once had and did not like. He has the same options.
        I managed youth baseball teams for 17 years and never favored any one kid over another, never played one at a position for any reason other than he was the best available. I told them that I would explain the reasons for every decision I made at the appropriate time. I told the parents that I was coaching their son/daughter, not them and would only deal with the players. In 17 years many things happened and we resolved every issue together, not on the basis of want but on the basis of merit. My sons current ages are 53, 48 and 43 so all these players are middle age now. The most rewarding thing about the time spent with them (and my sons) is that even the worst athletes still thank me for being their coach.
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        • Posted by  $  9 months, 1 week ago
          "He has the same options." - making this a teachable moment.

          If I'm coaching I'm answering to the parents. Sure, parents will get out of line. I don't think that's what's happening here. If we were discussing this after the first few games - maybe. But, this has been years. And, the boy can flat-out play.

          I'm very tight-lipped so far about all this with my boy and the coach. I don't know about other Objectivists, but I can't stand to see wasted talent. I've seen it so many times in my life with various people and, man, it gets my goat something fierce. I'm only "middle-aged" myself now. But, it has become clear to me how quickly life passes. For me, personally, it should be spent either kicking ass or sitting with my toes in the sand and a cold one in my hand. But...that's a personal thing. Thanks for your input.
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  • Posted by freedomforall 9 months, 1 week ago
    Disclaimer: I am not a parent and have no experience in raising a teen.
    Do you think he needs more experience in a team environment? If so, then perhaps a different place to play soccer where his talents would be appreciated, or getting him interested in another team sport that can utilize his abilities.
    Going into an individual performance sport like golf might be best done in addition to the team "experience" as you have already been doing.
    It sounds like he has had 7 years in the current situation. To me, that is long enough frustration. How would the coach respond if your son left the team? Sometimes people don't appreciate what they have until it's gone.
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    • Posted by  $  9 months, 1 week ago
      Thanks. In his golf competition format they play in a team format - a team that is several two-man scramble teams. It is a team effort there, which is cool.
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  • Posted by ChristianObjectivist 9 months ago
    If you are wanting to present Objectivism to your child, then think of the pillars of Objectivism. Use logic, which path is the more logical path?
    1) Which Sport presents the better skill set/benefits.
    2) Are there any downsides to these sports?
    3) Does one add more social or cultural capitol?
    4) When discussing your child what do they want? Do they know what they want? Have you asked them to present their logic to you as to prove they have thought about it?
    5) When discussing the leaving the sport half way through the season, what is the point? Personally if I had a child I would have no qualms with my child leaving this couch and his team. The couch lacks skills to compromise, to allow growth of the players, or simply respect your son enough. If he has expressed interest and has been denied, and if he shows great skills for a different position, than this couch is not worth your or your child's time.
    6) Finally I would say that this is a great learning opportunity for your son to accept Objectivism as it can teach him to understand the rational self interest, the laissez faire capitalism, and understanding that he should not be stopped based off of emotion but through rational thoughts and conclusions.
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  • Posted by walkabout97 9 months, 1 week ago
    The coach needs to get over himself. Get the coach a copy of Mike Matheny's book: the Matheny manifesto. Youth sports are not about winning and losing -- making the coach the big man in whatever small town he inhabits -- they are about youth learning important lessons about life (if they happen to be good at the sport, that is cool, but most will never even get to college on the sport let alone make a living at it). You might consider another league. I'm not a golfer or a soccer player and don't see the appeal in either, but if your son does so be it.
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  • Posted by Mamaemma 9 months, 1 week ago
    At 12 years old, I already knew what I wanted in life, and I bet you did, too. He sounds like an impressive young man. I would let him make this decision.
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  • Posted by Herb7734 9 months, 1 week ago
    Based on what you wrote, he should become the next Arnold Palmer. He gave it his best shot, and for whatever reason he was not appreciated for his efforts and progress.I think that more than legitimatized his quitting the team, if that's what makes him happy. Whether he goes further with whatever athletic skill he has, or makes it just a source of enjoyment, why at age 12 should he suffer frustration when other options are open to him? I'm sure you realize that the "team player" is mostly BS and there are a hundred reasons why.
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  • Posted by LibertyBelle 9 months, 1 week ago
    I don't claim to know much at all about soccer. It
    does seem, from what you have said, that he is
    being put down and not given a proper scope to his
    abilities, (although I am not entirely sure that a certain amount of parental partiality is not involved, and perhaps some prejudice on the
    boy's part in his own favor). But the facts as you
    relate them, in my opinion, point to the idea that
    he might as well quit and go into a sport where
    he would be better appreciated.
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  • Posted by Eyecu2 9 months, 1 week ago
    Sports are supposed to be fun. If your child is not enjoying himself, he should spend his time elsewhere. Be that on a different Soccer team, a different sport or some other activity entirely.
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  • Posted by  $  edweaver 9 months, 1 week ago
    I think there is more to it than I have knowledge but, if he is not on a team, he certainly will not get the opportunity to play forward.

    A few questions to ponder. Is he a good defender? Does he love the game enough that he wants to contribute to the best of his ability, in any position needed? What if the coach resigns after the season ends and there's a new coach next year, possibly opening the opportunity to play forward next year? Would the opportunity exist if he quits this year?

    My position, commitment is very important. It is a matter of personal pride. Finish what you start at almost any cost. Finish the season and don't sign up next year. My 2 cents, for what it is worth. :)
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    • Posted by  $  9 months, 1 week ago
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      • Posted by IndianaGary 9 months, 1 week ago
        Caveat: no kids, so I haven't had personal experience in this area, but I also don't have an emotional investment.

        I think that your son has invested sufficient time (7 years) playing where the coach wants him to play and does have enough experience to be able to offer himself to the coach in an alternative role on offense. That said, he also has committed to completing to the season. So he should have a conversation with the coach where he offered to play offense part time, made it clear that he planned to finish the season whatever position he played, but also clearly stated that, should nothing change, that he would not be available for the following season.
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