Dear Athletic Support: We kept my son out of 7th grade football at the start of this year. Think back to August. You remember what was happening, don’t you? COVID everywhere. The Delta variant. Yeah. We weren’t about to let him play a full-contact sport in the middle of all that mess. But now things have calmed down. Cases are falling across the state. And my son still wants to play football. I know we’re already about halfway through the season, but I would hate for him to miss this opportunity just because we were trying to protect him. What would be the best way for us to handle this? Should my son go to the coach himself? Should I try and schedule a meeting? With half of the season gone already, is there any chance at all the coach will let my son join the team? I sure hope so. – Let Him Play

Dear Play: Under normal circumstances, I would say there’s no way a coach would let a player join the team halfway through the season unless they just moved to town.

Actually, now that I type that, I know that’s not completely true. I know there are a lot of coaches out there who would let a player join the team halfway through the season if he happened to be really, really good.

Like, say, some star basketball stud who decides he wants to come catch touchdown passes. Yeah. Most coaches are going to have trouble turning him away.

The problem, though, are all the other boys who put in the time and the effort and the sweat. The ones who were there all summer. Attended every workout. The camps. The practices before the start of school.

What sort of message would a coach send to his players if he just let a kid join up midway through the season? What sort of precedent would that set?

It might open up the floodgates. It might give boys the idea that they can skip all the hard stuff and join up right before Homecoming.

Who knows? But I bet it wouldn’t be good.

Your case, however, is different. Everything is different these days because we’re still dealing with a global pandemic.

So here’s what I’d do: I’d let your son go talk to his coach first. That’s always the best first step. You want to use this as a chance for your son to learn something, and he can learn how to speak to an adult if he’s the one who approaches the coach.

If the coach won’t budge – or that talk just doesn’t go well – then you can set up a meeting. Remind this coach that these are special circumstances and trying times. We could all use a little help!

Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Send questions for “Athletic Support” to eli.cranor@gmail.com

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