Fun, with no other expectations

John Edwards, who played college basketball, says he is fine letting son J.D. determine his own path in athletics.

JOHN C. COTEY | Times

John Edwards, who played college basketball, says he is fine letting son J.D. determine his own path in athletics.

DADE CITY — J.D. Edwards is a hard-nosed, multidimensional and talented football player.

Last year, he was an all-conference linebacker, and he will play a large role on the Pasco football team in the fall.

What the senior is not, however, is a Division I prospect. Maybe not even Division II.

And he and his dad, John Edwards, are perfectly fine with that.

"His attitude is he just kind of hopes some small school will look at him and like him, and maybe he can play there," said Edwards, the longtime radio voice of the Pirate football team.

Truthfully, J.D. could play at some college level. Edwards could argue for this. Dive into the recruiting game, meet with coach Tom McHugh to discuss more playing time, bug one of his newspaper buddies to write a story on his son, maybe even argue that surely there's a Division I-AA school that might be a fit.

A lot of parents would. And do.

J.D. didn't play youth football, though he tried a little baseball and basketball, and hung around his father when he was coaching basketball at Saint Leo and USF.

He wasn't sent off to camps, didn't train on the side with specialized coaches.

"He didn't want to," Edwards said. "He never asked. He'd tell me he'd rather go to Gator games on Saturday with me. I said, 'Okay, whatever you wanna do.' "

J.D. is a good high school football player, dad says proudly.

But could he have been great with, you know, a little nudge from Pops?

"I don't know," Edwards said. "I just wanted him to play and have fun. That's all I wanted. You don't have to go camps to be great. But you do have to enjoy playing the game."

A former high school star point guard on Tampa Bayshore Christian's 1984 final four team, Edwards played ball at Trinity Christian College in Chicago after Houston and Georgia had expressed interest.

After graduating, he attended an NBA free agent tryout. Red Auerbach and Pat Riley were in attendance.

He is, then, perfectly suited to live his life vicariously through his sons, J.D. and Noah.

"I'm surprised, because I've heard the stories and people are always telling me how good he was," J.D. said. "But he never put any of that pressure on me."

A graduation enhancement teacher of at-risk kids at Woodland Elementary, Edwards said he hears it all the time from kids, especially on Monday, as they complain that their dads made them do this or that all weekend.

J.D. hears the same thing. He says more than a dozen kids he has played with "have parents that get on them. I don't know if it makes them not enjoy the sport, but they are annoyed by their parents. I look at them, and I'm pretty glad my dad doesn't do that."

After high school games on Friday nights, Edwards has heard parents complain to coaches for taking their kids out in 49-0 games. "We're trying to get a scholarship here," they say, instead of enjoying the victory over a district rival.

Maybe he's just old-school. He still believes in playing for high school glory, and that doing so is one of the greatest times of a kid's life. There are lessons to learn, friends to make, teams to be a part of.

Why spoil it, he asks, by putting so much pressure on kids?

"You have to keep everything in perspective," he said. "I'd like to think I've helped J.D. do that. You work hard, and if it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, you did the right thing anyway because you worked hard."

Edwards didn't spend a dime on camps or training for his son. But this past year, he made an exception and sent J.D. to a Gator camp in Gainesville.

"It had nothing to do with football," he said, laughing. "J.D. just wanted to get on the field and get his picture taken with (coach) Will Muschamp."

John C. Cotey can be reached at cotey@tampabay.com or on Twitter @JohnnyHomeTeam.

What they're saying

. "I tell this to athletic directors all the time: what I am trying to do is get to these folks before they get to you. These are divas. And who do they bring with them? Their diva parents."Bob Bigelow, former NBA first-round draft pick who is a youth sports crusader and author of Just Let the Kids Play

. "My approach is probably different from some other coaches. I will always have an open-door policy with all my parents. But I will not discuss playing time. Parents can come in and watch practice all they want. … But I won't tolerate any heckling in the stands, so to speak. They can talk to other parents or fans. But I'm going to run my program the way I see fit."Necole Tunsil, Lakewood girls basketball coach

. "I've seen a big change in parents. Parents today, just like kids today, they want instant gratification. They think their kids deserve everything. That's not the way it is. Parents think their Johnny is the best, but it doesn't work that way with me. The kid has to prove (himself)."Rick Masi, Seminole boys soccer coach

. "Sometimes parents think there is a magic wand and you just wave it and they become college players. … Parents will come to me and say their daughter wants to play at UNC. Well, so did I. … I tell parents they have to use the best of all the worlds they have. Use the exposure of the club, the media and experience of high school and the coaching they get from all the different coaches."Rui Farias, St. Petersburg girls and boys soccer coach

. "Parents want to be so involved now because they think that's their kid's ticket to a scholarship and they can make it to a Division I school. It's hard because if a kid doesn't make a team or you try to discipline a kid (the parents) are the first ones to step up and side with the kid without even asking what's going on. Everyone thinks their kids are going to be a superstar." — Kaylyn Bayly, Countryside softball and volleyball coach

. "If my kid gets a D-I scholarship, I probably get a lot of compliments from all the other parents. It's not, hey, you've got better genetics than me. It's hey, what'd you do?"Dan Gould, director of Michigan State's Institute for the Study of Youth Sports on how some parents' sense of self worth is tied to their kids

Fun, with no other expectations 07/15/13 [Last modified: Monday, July 15, 2013 10:34pm]

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