Mary Jo Podgurski

Column Mary Jo Podgurski

Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski is the founder and director of the Washington Health System Teen Outreach. She responds to 68 questions from young people daily and has written 'Ask Mary Jo' since 2005.

The wide world of sports

July 24, 2013

Q.My dad has been my baseball coach for as long as I can remember. I hate it. I love my dad but hate him coaching me. If he plays me, people think he’s playing favorites. If he doesn’t play me, my mom gets all in his face. I thought it was over because I’m going to high school, but now I overheard my dad telling my mom he was going to volunteer with the high school baseball team. I love baseball. But if he helps coach I don’t think I’ll even try out. Should I say something to him or to my mom? If I should, how in the world do I do that?

14-year-old male

Mary Jo’s response: Thank you for your courage. It is often easier to be silent when speaking out risks hurting someone. You face a true challenge – you love your parents and want them to know how much you appreciate their time, yet genuinely want a chance to play baseball without being coached by your dad. You love baseball and want to continue playing. You were wise to reveal your thoughts and your concern.

I think writing to me was a rehearsal for a conversation with your mom and dad. You’ve taken the first step. Have you considered another type of preparation? Do you have a family member – an uncle, grandma or cousin – who could help you discuss this with your parents? Another trusted adult could be a buffer and help mediate. Or you may want to speak with your mom first and seek her guidance.

Select your words with care. Be calm and respectful. Choose your discussion time when your parent isn’t stressed. Avoid strong judgment words like “hate.” Stress how much you treasure time with your dad. Share moments when he’s helped you develop your love of the sport. Talk about your personal growth. Experiencing a coach who is not a relative could aid in your development. Tell your dad that you want to see how another coach would play you and how you’d feel on a team where you had an equal footing with the other players. This conversation will be good practice for other challenging communications in adulthood.

Many young people have shared their feelings when parents were their coaches. Some loved the experiences; others felt that they were signaled out for perfection, played too much, or pushed too hard. I don’t think you’re alone.

Your dad may not realize your feelings and may be happy to listen. Give your parents a chance to respond to your concerns. I strongly suggest that you try out in high school. If you drop baseball without telling the truth, your parents will be confused and you will miss playing a sport you love. Good luck and please keep in touch.

Q.What sport can I play in high school if I’m not any good at baseball, basketball or football? I want to play a sport, but I suck at those. I’ve tried. What else is there?

14-year-old male

Mary Jo’s response: Playing a sport can be an excellent high school choice. Not only can a young person have fun, but lessons that can last a lifetime are learned. Preparing and practicing for a sport teaches discipline and commitment; developing skills within a team can open doors to better communication and a positive work ethic.

Every school district offers a variety of sports activities. Consider other team sports like soccer, lacrosse, or hockey. Individual sports like tennis, golf or wrestling can provide exercise and growth. Talk with your guidance counselor as soon as you can. Remember that activities like band, chorus, drama club or debate/academic teams can help you grow, as well. Our Peer Educators can always use new members. Stay connected and I’ll let you know when our next training will be held in the fall.

Q.I’m a senior this year, and I’m counting on an athletic scholarship. I play pretty well. I don’t want to say which sport because I don’t want people to know who I am, but I wanted to write to you and ask you to put this in your column. I trust you. It’s helped me to talk with you about this and it hit me one day that I’m not the only teen who may feel this way. The thing is, I think there’s too much pressure on people like me who need money for college. I wish I could play my sport for the joy of playing and not have to worry all the time about performance and scouts and making an impression. Sometimes I worry that I’m not the team player I should be because I’m so busy thinking about how I’m doing and if my stats are good and if someone in the stands is watching me to see how I handle the game. I don’t think I’m the only person who feels this way. I wish things were different, but they’re not. Adults who are involved in youth sports should remember that sometimes kids just want to play for fun. Thanks for listening.

17-year-old – no gender given

Mary Jo’s response: Thank you for your trust. Your words are wise and worth reading. Adults involved in any youth activity need to remember to listen to young people. I hope your senior year is outstanding.



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