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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Redshirting Your Own Kids

I was on a golf trip with some college buddies several years ago when a friend of mine asked me what I thought about having kids repeat grades in school. This friends lives down south, has been very successful, and excelled in school.

I asked him what the reason for doing it was. He indicated that his boys were good students, but there was a trend where he lived to have kids repeat a grade in school -- something like fifth or sixth -- to get them an extra year of physical size and maturity. Apparently, because of this trend, his boys were among the youngest in their class. Also, this friend, while mighty of heart, is small in stature, and his boys were among the smallest kids in his grade.

He was inclined to buck the trend (and ultimately did), because he went straight through school in the same state without being held back, played three sports (including football), and his life experience told him that what was good for him would bear out for his boys. While he likes sports, he isn't obsessed with them and didn't care all that much to have them coming out of high school at 19. I think that he raised the issue with me because he thought that I would support his decision, and he was right. His kids were doing fine, so why mess with a good thing?

That's not, though, how a lot of people think. I just read an article about one of the best high school quarterbacks in the country, Jimmy Clausen, out of California, and brother of the Clausens who played at Tennessee. This Clausen is projected to be another John Elway, and even though he's only a junior one publication had him rated in the top five of all quarterback prospects currently in high school.

Jimmy Clausen started kindergarten at six and repeated sixth grade "to gain maturity" his mother was quoted as saying. Which means, to the best of my calculations he's 18 in eleventh grade (his teammates tease him about his age). Now I don't know anything about the Clausen family except what I've read in the linked article, but I have a few questions.

First, how prevalent is this practice? Does it happen a lot?

Second, if it does happen, does it make a difference in terms of how a kid's career turns out? Do a disproportionate amount of 19 year-old HS seniors get scholarships when compared to say kids who are 18? Or who are 17 and turn 18 after high school?

Third, is this practice better than sending your kid to a prep school for a post-graduate year where he can improve his grades, his study habits, get used to life away from home and make himself a better candidate for colleges?

Fourth, is this practice better than what the service academies sometimes do, which is to recruit kids and admit them contingent upon their competing a year at their captive prep schools?

Fifth, is this a better practice than simply getting red-shirted at the college who recruits you?

Sixth, is this a good practice and for whose benefit is it really -- the kid's or the parents', because the parents are the ones who draw vicarious joy out of their kids' successes and the kid is really too young to make such life-altering decisions for himself. Or, is that what parenting is all about, making those tough, life-altering choices to give your kid the best shot at something?

Many parents don't want their kids -- especially boys -- being the youngest in their grade at school. Are there disadvantages to being the oldest kid in the grade? For example, will the kids of average age write off the oldest kid as less able because if he's that old and in your grade, mustn't there be something wrong with him? Or do kids really not think about that type of stuff at all, but rather whether someone is good and nice -- or not? And are the decisions made because of a concern about the kid's overall welfare, or merely about his ability to compete and earn a college scholarship?

What would you do? Suppose you're not a good athlete and neither is your spouse and your kids haven't demonstrated any noticeable athletic ability. Suppose one has size and one has speed, and people in your town are putting kids on travel teams at 8 and getting caught up in all sorts of extracurricular sports programs. You hear about kids getting into better colleges, getting better aid, with perhaps some of them getting full rides to a school. What do you do?

In the first, instance, if you're kid is a good student or better, you clearly won't do the self-redshirting thing, because you run the risk of your child's getting bored out of his mind and not developing it properly if the school work is too easy for him or her. Second, if your kid doesn't have any passion at all for any sports, even if an average student, you don't do the self-redshirting thing either. If the kid isn't interested, she won't excel.

Let's change the hypothetical a little bit. Suppose your kids show some ability (regardless of yours), are very passionate about a sport, sports are important to them, and they're average students. What do you do then? Does the decision get tougher?

Let's alter it a bit more. Suppose they show excellent size and ability and are very passionate about sports, but only average students? What do you do then? Does the decision get tougher? Suppose the kid is an excellent student as well? Do you hold him back to improve his chances of getting an athletic scholarship, or do you advance him because he's such a good student?

You want the best for your kids, but how do you go about it? Do you go along with society's norms, accept the age cutoff dates at your public school, have your kids play on school teams but also on club teams, take them for special lessons in their sport and send them to camps where they'll get noticed? Do you have them work with a team of sports enhancement specialists? Do you hold them back?

Do you risk mediocrity and leaving a kid's life unfulfilled if you don't take these extra steps for him and her? Or do you risk having an agitated, unhappy kid who feels like he was raised in a sports laboratory and didn't get to life a normal kid's life? Is there a happy medium in between?

Who makes the call on how bad something is wanted or needed -- athletic excellence and a scholarship that can go with it?

And at what age do you start making those calls?

Do you seek a balanced life for your kid, one where he or she knows a bunch about a bunch of things and can handle himself well in many circumstances without being in the elite in any one? Or do you seek a life where he or she can be an absolute star, even if it means missing out on the balance that others seek and that others find enriching because there's more to life than, say, ice hockey or figure skating or football?

What would you do?

Depends on the kid, you say?

Or does it depend on the parents even more?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why stop there? Hold your boys back from kindergarten until they are seven or eight. They can be sixteen-year-old freshmen in high school and get every chance to play four years as a starting QB. Does it really matter if the kid is ridiculed because he is shaving in middle school?

It's all about the parents' vicarious thrill at watching the child-athlete accomplish what they did (or couldn't do). Or saving a few bucks in case he ends up as one of the small percentage that gets a college scholarship.

We have friends who held their kids back for other reasons, and the boys (musicians as it turns out instead of athletes) resented it as they went through high school feeling too old to still be in that environment.

Our two oldest sons have both been among the youngest in their class. The oldest managed seven varsity letters in HS and the second is a HS sophomore who will end up in the same range.

Are they DI scholarhip candidates? No. Would they be so if they had been held back? No. If a HS athlete needs an extra year the extra year at a prep school is a far better option -- then the decision can be made when all of the information is available.


9:10 AM  
Blogger Amateur said...

Wow. This is an interesting post.

I was an excellent student and was moved ahead a grade when I was 6. Although I was a decent minor hockey player and an excellent athlete in a non-school sport (competed in the junior world championships at 17), my experience with school sports was, frankly, excruciating. I played hockey in junior high but was badly outmatched, and hated every minute that I played (and there weren't many). I couldn't make any other team that I tried out for.

I cannot imagine that I would have been happier in high school, two years older and playing on a couple of (bad) sports teams, but bored out of my mind in class.

On the other hand, there will be cultural differences that come into play; in my neck of the woods high school sports are pretty bush league. It ain't Texas.

10:29 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks, TigoBlue and Amateur, for your thoughtful comments. I wouldn't redshirt my kids for sports before college, but then again I believe in a balanced life. That belief, though, can go against the grain of even the elite colleges, who are looking for the well-rounded class as opposed to the well-rounded kid. Play three sports in high school and captain a team and get good grades and, well, you could get into an Ivy or New England liberal arts college -- as a recruited athlete. Play one, be all-state, play it all-year round, don't have any other activities and get grades that are good but not as good as the kid with the three sports who also has other activities -- and you probably have a better chance of getting in.

Also, there's the issue of greatness. What makes someone truly outstanding? Is it that they go through all of society's conventions, play the three sports, don't go for extra tutoring or coaching, but just work hard within allotted time? Or is it that they transcend the conventional, work harder, do things differently, have parents who do things differently (including things like red-shirting)? Does a Jimmy Clausen become the next big hot prospect without the types of choices his parents and he have made?

I'm not sure what the answers are. There's a HS hoopster in the Northeast whose parents are professionals. The kid plays hoops year-round, and he's gone to special coaches for working on his speed, fitness and strength. They've made sure he keeps his head on straight, but they have done the extras to ensure his greatness. Then again, they also saw the talent and saw that the effort is worthwhile. For most kids, though, the parents might try this stuff regardless of whether the talent is there. And that's where things get dangerous -- in terms of the kid's development.

4:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog, and I can't tell you how fascinating this debate is to a Brit.

I don't know whether our universities' American Studies departments assign 'Friday Night Lights', 'A Season on the Brink' or 'The Junction Boys' as set books, but they should. The American attitude to sport seems to illuminate American society as a whole in a way nothing alse does.

5:34 AM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks for your comments.

What makes matters worse at elite colleges in the U.S. is that those schools are emphasizing the well-rounded class over the well-rounded kid. Sure, they're still getting bright kids, but it's better if the kid is an all-world cellist and outstanding student than if the kid plays four instruments, soccer and is involved in a few community projects. As a result, the pressure -- to have a kid become great at one sport -- will intensify. I'm not sure who wins out here -- and why should the elite schools really care if they are 15-8 in soccer as opposed to 10-12-1? I just don't get that aspect of it.

Given the increasing rate of diabetes in the U.S., if I ran a college I would de-emphasize intercollegiate athletics and ensure that each student graduated having played an intramural sport and has a fitness regimen. Get them started early on good habits, I would argue, but I really wouldn't care, say, if Bates beats Bowdoin in football 2 out of every 3 years.

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife is a school psychologist and has read numerous research indicating boys would be better off in school if they started at age seven while girls would still start at age six and do well. Think about how many guys go to college and flunk out because they are not mature enough to handle the responsibility. My dad skipped a grade in school and was a good stundent but frustrated because he wasn't given a chance as an athlete except in track where he excelled as a young runner even though he graduated early.

8:35 AM  
Anonymous sullibe said...

The one thing that you have to always remember when discussing the future of children is that each child develops at his or her own rate. Simply holding a child back a grade hoping that they will grow and mature in one year is, in my opinion, not a reliable way to ensure their success in school, both athletic or academic; they may not hit that growth spurt for another year or two (and I know fifty year old men who haven't reached an upper level of a maturity we all hope our children meet). The best way to ensure any child's success is to work with them- academically, intellectually and physically- and then let them progress at their own rate. I say this fully aware that when my oldest sone begins kindergarten this fall he will be one of the youngest in his class. He is looking forward to going to school.

9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a daughter who started school at age 4. (What was I thinking?) Now at age 10 she is going to start middle school with many children who are 14yrs. old in 8th grade...a few overly red shirted kids even may be 15.

She will be riding the bus with older kids, who are into older kid , and I have seen the effects of being so young starting in the 3rd grade. She was 7 at the start of that year, she started 5th grade at age 9. (Again I say, what was I thinking?) Far too young.

Yes, she will turn 11 within the first 60 days of school, but even then she will be a young 11 while the other 11 year olds will be turning 12 shortly. So I think, it's better to send your kids to school a little late as opposed to early.

I was an outstanding athlete in high school, as was her father, so sports do come to mind, I would like her to have an extra year to get ready for middle school sports as well as improve her scholastic abilities.(study habits, note taking etc.)

Even though she finished the year with a "B" average, and excelled in playing the flute. We are very seriously thinking about having her repeat 5th grade, based on her young age alone! Any other benefits will just be extra. I haven’t been able to find the support via other family members that I wish we could have. I don’t want her to feel bad because grandma keeps telling friends that she "flunked" 5th grade! I have been looking all over the web for this information, so thank you! I really appreciate the topic.

10:05 AM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks for your most recent comment. I think you're right to hold your daughter back -- there's no hurry to get to the real world, and it sounds like she'll be better off by not having to "grow up" so fast and be with kids so much older than she.

Still, it's a tough call with each and every kid. I was tall when I was little and my mother enrolled me in school because all of the kids I played with on the playground were going to go. I did fine academically, but I think I would have benefitted socially and extracurricularly had she waited to enroll me (I got my driver's license about the time 11th grade ended). That's a closed chapter of course, for an adult, but one I take to heart when following the progress of my own children and making decisions concerning them.

You have a great reason to hold your daughter back -- she was very young to begin with. And who knows, in addition to being a great flautist, she might also show some skills with a lacrosse stick or shooting the fifteen-foot jumper -- against kids who are more her own age.

By the way, forget about what grandma says. She should be supportive of your efforts, and if she can't think about the positive effect this holding back will have, then shame on her. Flunked? Hardly! Her negative comments are a reflection of her --and not you. Family situations can be are difficult, but what everyone needs to remember it's that everyone should come together and want the best for your daughter. Grandma may not want this because she's afraid what her friends and neighbors would think. And if that's the case, then what kind of neighbors and friends are they to begin with? Too many wrong decisions are made because of a fear as to what people may think as opposed to what's right. It sounds like you have the courage to do what's right here.

Sorry for getting on my soapbox there, but that's a sore spot for me at times.

You've used your head, your reasoning is sound, and your intentions are excellent. Good luck!

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous Mom said...

Hi, Im the mom from above ("what was I thinking") Your comments are really appreciated....not only because they fall in line with my beliefs, (smile) but also because I enjoy hearing others opinions about this issue...You are right "Too many wrong decisions are made because of a fear as to what people may think as opposed to what's right."

I have to admit that I have doubted my way of thinking on several occasions based on the negativity I have received from others...even though I know I have thoroughly evaluated this and I know I want what's best for my child. We are a few weeks away from the new school year now....thanks for the good luck wish

12:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a 10 year old son that is strong academically, his standardized test scores are ok. We started him in K at age 4 and we have questioned our decision of not enrolling him in a young five's program as opposed to the full time K. It was more of a concern as he went through 4th and 5th grade due to maturity issues; he is very young at heart.

Now we are at a crossroads on whether to start middle school. He wants to be with his friends that he plays with, most of which are going into 5th grade. I have also, over and over in my head, relived the phone call from the principal offering the opportunity for the young 5s program that we chose not to enroll him in. She asked me "Are you sure you don't want to take advantage of this?" My son was socially adjusted, ready for K and was bigger than most boys. So we said no. But over the years,I feel that we have cheated him out of a year of childhood and have regretted it as well as lost sleep over it. Now, we have a chance to put him with his friends at a different school with boys he plays with and go to 5th again. Our family is supportive of this as most of them live in the Chicago suburbs where it is not uncommon to "redshirt" them at this age for academic, maturity or sports reasons. We live in another state though. My son is thrilled about the idea so he can be with his peers. The thought of him going to college at a young 17 frightens me and I don't think making him wait at that age would be beneficial to him.

I was so happy to see your comments from the mom with the 10 yr.old girl and sports profs own comments. I have to say, my son is very gifted athletically too. He is one of the stars with boys his own age. If he goes on to HS as one of the younger in the class, I am afraid I will regret that too. I was one of the first women to receive an athletic scholarship to a big ten school in the late 70s and my husband was an athlete as well. We have an older son that was a late Dec. baby and started as one of the older ones. He is exceptional academically and athletically. We have to make a decision in the next few days and my heart is telling me to let him be a kid, but challenge him through 5th grade again. He previously went to a focus school and his friends go to a neighborhood school. It seems like it would be a healthy environment for him to do 5th again.
I am getting half and half pros and cons from our school professionals. Some continue just to look at academics only for retention and some are relying on the parents, as they are the ones who know their children best and have the child's best interest as a priority.

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am the Mom with the 10 yr. old son. One note to add: we have had multiple coaches say we should skip a grade, home school or whatever in order to let my son go to Middle School at a later age because of his athletisism- he is a lefty pitcher that throws quite fast beyond his years speed wise and with accuracy and, a football player,quarterback etc. My sister has a daughter at the national / world level in gymnastics and I know how people talk but you have to do what is right for your child. I know people will say we did it just for sports,if we hold him back and there are parents who talk about everything, if their child is not #1. But, it also takes courage to say something different out of the system, and maybe this is it!!!. When he is ready, I will send him on to MS. He has no negative feelings at all about 5th grade again.
Sincerely, Mom of a 5th grader witrh lots of talent only mom made a slight mistake earyly on.

11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live about 20 minutes away from Oaks Christian's campus(home of jimmy clausen). I have seen him play several times as I have a brother who plays high school football, and the 2 schools meet annually. Clausen and his team are in the worst division that there is in so. cal h.s. football ( I belive D12). He is not that good and won't get past notre dame because no nfl team will want a 25/26 yr.old rookie. I am a sophmore in college and i am 19. He is a senior and college and an older 19 than I am. One word: pathetic!!!

That's right Clausen...JOKE.

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mom with the 10 year old son...I was just wondering if you kept your son back or did you let him go to MS? Its so hard to hold a kid back when they dont "need" it for acadmic reasons.

I fall into the same situation, but I let my 10 yr old go to MS...Now Im wondering when and if I can hold her back to prevent her from going to high school at 13 and college at 17...She has always been gifted in school.

Any advice

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the mom with the 10 year old daughter from the mom with the 10 year old son: We did hold him back for another year of 5th grade. It was not an easy decision at all as you know but so far everything is great. In my heart, I know it was the right thing. I spoke with 4 prinicipals- 1 middle and 3 elementary as well as counselors on what the pros and cons are and researched anything I could find on the subject. Because his grades were so good, some of the school profs could not understand, but some were supportive of it. What made our change easy was that he did not go to the same school that he previously attended but he has friends from sports that go to his new school now. He will now attend middle school knowing more kids than if he would have attended MS this year, because of the school change. As they get into MS, it gets harder to hold back, etc., unless you live in an area where it is common -Texas, California, some parts of Illinois. The peer pressure / what will my friends say about it is one thing to consider. I know it was the right thing for my son. If he started MS would we think about holding him out of school one year before HS? I don't know but I doubt it - maybe. Waiting one year before going to college and going to a junior college one year, living at home, etc. may be an option for your gifted daughter too. Since our son is so gifted athletically and we wanted him to compete in sports with more kids his own age- that helped with our decision greatly too. I think my son can be easily influenced negatively by peers too. That was also a big concern. Good luck!!

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had the opportunity to see Jimmy Clausen on ESPN2 last night, by accident, and really enjoyed watching the 19 yr. old senior and his very talented teamates. Go Jimmy! It's nice to see something good and positive. He did not look out of place, still a teenager, but did look like a leader. He does not look out of place or "pathetic". Hopefully he will stay level headed and grounded, with the support of family and with the extra maturity year that he has. This boy has been the focus of so much media, but congrats young man, the best to you. Everyone can always find something negative and it is hard to not feel the emotions of jealousy if you are not in the limelight, or getting the attention. I would love to watch this boy and his teamates in college / pros, assuming they continue to grow, mature, etc. Redshirting can be a positive thing!

9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When my son was turned away from our local Catholic school for their kindergarten class because they felt he was not ready I was so upset. Took him to a wonderful preschool director who tested him and said he really would benefit from a pre-k program. Now at 15 turning 16 in April and a freshman in high school I get lots of questions from parents asking if I did it for the sports. He does play football and is one of the largest on the team, but is 2nd or 3rd string at best. The fact that he is an excellent student is what I am so proud of. I live near Oaks Christian and have heard that Jimmy Clausen is only taking one class this semester and that’s what makes me wonder what kind of character his parents have instilled in him. To base your child’s life on sports only and not academics seems very misguided. What if he had injured himself and could not play sports? Have they prepared him for anything else in life but sports? And how can it be fair to have a 19 year old playing against 16, 17, and 18 year olds? Where is the line drawn, should a 20 year old be able to play high school football?

6:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am considering letting my son repeat 2nd grade. I feel I made a mistake not doing so following pre-school. He is the youngest and almost the smallest in the class. If he had been born 7 days later he would be in the class below him. He is doing well academically, so this is more of a social retention. I am just not comfortable with him starting college at 17. Also, he is competiting in sports against kids who in some cases (25%) are 12 to 18 20 months older.

I am very concerned about how he will handle it and that may be the determing factor. Obviosuly he is not going to want to leave his friends. So what do I do?

10:18 AM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Hi, welcome to the blog and thanks for your post.

I think that your son will be fine. I have elementary-school aged children, and the dynamics of elementary school today seem different from 25-50 years ago, for a few reasons.

One, kids don't hang out as much today in neighborhoods as they used to. Why? First, they are scheduled with activities and are running here and there. Second, there is the perception that it's not safe to let them do this without parental supervision. Third, family structures vary from house to house -- single parents, both spouses working -- so that some kids go to after-school care and some kids go home with neighboring kids. So what's my point? My kids make new friends each year. Yes, they keep some of the old, but they make new friends.

Your son will be fine. I think that you're making the right move holding him back. I am not a professional in this area, so all I have to offer is an opinion. Boys take more time to mature, and he'll benefit from being held back a year. Your son will get over it -- he'll make new friends.

And there's nothing to say that he won't keep the old ones, either.

Good luck with your decision -- it sounds like you've given it a lot of thought and that it's the right one.

Happy New Year!

9:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sports Prof, Thanks for your comments. They are helpful. I agree, times have changed for kids. I can remember leaving in the morning and not returning until supper. No way, I let my kids do that today. I am probably too overprotective.

I spoke to the head of childhood development at our State Dept. of Education. She says holding back in 2nd grade can have negative effects. He has already established a peer group from which he will become detached. Also, he will not understand why, because he makes good grade. She says this can really affect self esteem now and later in life. But she also said each kid is differend and parents can make or break the situation.

I would hate to damage his self estee. Despite his youth he is a very coinfident kid for his grade. Somewhat of a leader in his class, depite his youth.

Tough decision, thanks agin for help.

10:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please forgive me for all the grammatical errors in the last post. I need to preview prior to posting.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I graduated high school at 17 and was one of the youngest people in my class. I really didn't feel too different from my classmate. At the same time, I was over six feet tall and 200+ pounds. I did experience some indiffent treatment when it came to being recruited. Some school say my age and assumed I had another year of high school. A few of my friends were held back in at some point in high school. For the most part, in my experience, the diffence athletically was marginal at best.

1:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is insanity at its best. The parents that are proclaiming to be holding their children back although they are great students are missing the real issues. Reality check? Truth in the matter is if these children don't stack up athletically with the other children their age then what difference will one year actually make? If they are talented athletes then the issue of "redshirting" them for a year to make them stand out, will only last for a short period of time. There are no guarantees in life, but you parents need to be teaching them to work hard towards their goals athletically and academically than to be teaching them to look for loopholes to improve appearance. Seems to me that these priorities need to be re-evaluated.

2:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had made up my mind that I would hold my son back in 8th grade, but my wife disagreed. You see we started him in Kindergarten at 4, November birthday. He quickly became larger than most of his classmates and more athletic. He is now 12, nearly 13 and in 8th grade. He played AAU basketball last Winter for a 7th grade team and also made an 8th grade team where he was not a starter but played every game. He is now 5'10" and around 150lbs, he is playing football and is outstanding. He is on the field making plays on offense, defense and special teams. He is extremely serious about sports and he gives all he has every minute of the game. I have never pushed him, just signing him up and taking him to practice... its all self motivation. He is an excellent student, getting As and Bs last year. I have no concern about his emotional maturity, he acts like an adult unless hes really tired.
Heres the thing, he wants to play sports in college and professionally. I will never tell him what his chances are or that I don't believe he can do it. Its his dream and I support him the best I can.
My wife was approached by a local fellow who suggested we hold him back for athletic reasons and now she believes it might be the right choice. We are really unhappy with our local school and would be fine with moving him to another. He says he doesn't care about repeating a grade and is all for having the chance to grow before high school.

If I do nothing he will most likely play JV football and basketball as a freshman. He may even play 3 years of Varsity. The down side is he will have to play with/against kids much more developed and older than him ( he will be a 13/14yr old Freshman playing against 16/17yr old Sophmores/Juniors. Also he will still be 17 when he graduates.

I know it seems like I have all the information to make the decision, but I don't know which way to go...

4:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


If I do nothing he will most likely play JV football and basketball as a freshman. He may even play 3 years of Varsity. The down side is he will have to play with/against kids much more developed and older than him ( he will be a 13/14yr old Freshman playing against 16/17yr old Sophmores/Juniors. Also he will still be 17 when he graduates.

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow 2005/ It is 2008, and I am in the same situtation. Talented QB who just turned 13, but will be in 9th grade next year. Should I hold him back. If he had another year to mature, he would be outstanding. I don't want to hold him back, but this could hurt him.

8:15 AM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Hi everyone: Little did I realize when I made the original post that it would draw this many comments.

To the most recent anonymous: there are three things you can do. First, do nothing. If he's well adjusted, looks comfortable in his own skin, then you've done a good job parenting and you should consider letting life take it's course.

Second, hold him back. If you talk to guidance counselors and teachers and have a sense that your kid could mature by being held back, that's fine, but there could be a social stigma to this. Also, if he's a good student, he could be bored silly. That said, there could be good reasons to do so.

Third, do nothing, and then, after his senior year, determine whether he might need a post-graduate year at a prep school to hone his skills and make him more appealing to a college football program (assuming he's that good). That's what some people do -- with excellent results.

All that said, remember that 99% plus of kids don't get athletic scholarships. First and foremost, these are kids games, for kids. If anyone out there is a parent who is trying to live vicariously through the child or gets too much joy out of a child's heroics, please talk with your spouse, clergyman or friends. This might not be healthy for you in the long run.

Please, always, remember to put the kid -- and the kid's overall (and not just sports) well being at the top of your list. You'll be glad you did.

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NEED SOME ADVICE! My son is almost 12 years old & in 6th grade. He makes A's in school & excels in Basketball & Baseball. We've discussed holding him back in 6th grade because he is small & struggles at times with his size. Some of our friends think we're crazy! Are we?

10:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't let what others think influence your decision. If you, spouse, and son determine this is the best decision, than go for it. I am curious about retaining just for size. If he is close in age to the other kids in his class than I would not retain for size. The size advantage you are attempting to create will be short lived. By high school he will be small again. If he has a summer b-day and some kids are nearly a year older than it may make sense.

11:03 AM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

A friend of mine went to a high school in suburban Chicago, where he starred in baseball and football. On his baseball team was this small kid, too small to go anywhere, the kid was told. The kid worked hard and had speed.

The kid had trouble cracking the lineup at the high school, but he persisted and went to a junior college, where he excelled. Still rather small, he had a good batting eye and was a good hitter and fielder. He transferred to Arizona, where he played against top-notch college competition and played well. He ultimately played center field for the Indians and Braves, and he played it well. His name -- Brett Butler.

Coaches say that it's the size of the fight in the dog and not the size of the dog in the fight. So, with respect to your son's size, think the issue through and make the decision that you think is best.

8:52 PM  
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9:57 AM  
Anonymous Mom2010 said...

Wow, all these posts written in 2005 ended up helping me in 2010! I'm having the same dilemma about holding my third grade son back a year. He's extremely athletic and already showing considerable talent in basketball (and he's adopted, so didn't inherit it from me). He's passionate about basketball, playing since he started at the local YMCA at the age of 3. He's currently on an AAU 3rd grade travel team that is already qualified to go to the nationals at Disney World in August. But he's the youngest kid on his team, with a birthday on August 2nd. He entered kindergarten only a couple of weeks after turning five and will be only 17 when he graduates from high school.

If this were just about being able to have the competitive sports advantage, then I'm not sure that I'd seriously consider holding him back. I know for certain that if I could go back in time, I'd wait a year for kindergarten. Because it's more than physical development. He's average academically, although he's a little behind in reading. My biggest concern is his social and behavioral immaturity, which is not unusual for kids adopted beyond infancy. He's not developmentally delayed, just very immature. I'm growing more convinced (especially after my experience with his older brother, whose birthday is Aug. 3rd!) that another year might be a good thing. On the other hand, I'm concerned about how he will perceive this or how other kids might treat him. I'll have to handle it very carefully. Because of his ability and personality, he's pretty well liked by his classmates. I love his school, so don't want to transfer him. One good thing is that he really likes his 3rd grade teacher, so the opportunity to have her again might be an incentive.

I don't know...I have to make up my mind soon because they're forming next year's classes. I think if I'm going to do this, I'd rather it be in 3rd grade than in middle school. Again, thanks for this post (and comments), because it's been one of the most useful for me in terms of what I've found online.

4:19 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks for your post.

You make compelling reasons for doing either. I'm not an expert on this subject, but suggest that you consult with the school guidance counselor, your friends, your child.

Think it through, consult with the experts, and then make up your own mind. Good luck, and let us know what you decided.

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Mom2010 said...

Here's the follow up. It's been an interesting process, in that Mom has made some unanticipated advances, perhaps even more than Son has. I did hold him back in the 3rd grade, after much consultation and consideration. And that has turned out exceptionally well. At mid-year, he's doing great in both academics and social behavior. There's no comparison to the student he is now versus a year ago. I have a strong sense that he's with kids who are closer to his developmental stage and he seems more settled with his peer group this year. As far as his sports participation, going through this 'red-shirting' assessment caused me to reflect at length on what athletic development for a kid should be about and how I as the parent can support him without getting caught up in the craziness of competitive youth sports and doing him more harm than good in the long run. I did some research on developing young athletes and read that specializing in one sport is not a good idea. It turned out that he pestered me throughout the summer to play football and, although I was concerned about the potential for injury, I decided to let him try it. Not only did he love playing the game, but he also did it very well. In fact, he started the season with no experience at all and ended up being the team's MVP at the playoff game (on a team with quite a few kids who'd been playing for several years). I realized something about athletic skill and development: that playing different sports provides all sorts of additional benefits for a kid. They learn some new things, but they also continue to develop what they already know. My son knew about teamwork from basketball, but in football it was elevated to a whole new level. He also got mentally tougher and developed more physical confidence. He learned how to break out of a huddle with speed and power. He played both offense and defense, but as a running back the speed and agility he'd gained from basketball was put to great use. And perhaps the most important thing is that he absolutely loved it. It had never occurred to me that he could enjoy anything as much as basketball.

This experience took me out of a 'one-sport' mindset. I stopped worrying about whether he would fall behind his peers who continued to play basketball year-round. (This is a 9-year-old, mind you!) They may have a little edge at the moment, but I know now that playing one sport year-round can lead to repetitive injuries and burnout as kids get older. I started to view my son as an athletic kid, not as a competitive basketball player. I see now how easy it is to get caught up in the ridiculously trumped-up, hype-driven competitive youth sports system. Even as a parent, you can start to view your kid almost as a commodity. Now that football season is over, he's back to playing league basketball, but not at the AAU level. He'll probably go back to AAU play in the summer but I plan to put him in track and field in February. He also joined a school district sports league that offers basketball but plans to introduce the players to lacrosse later in the year. He says that he still loves basketball best, but I figure that if he ever wants to specialize, he'll decide when and how that happens. I see my job now to expose him to as much variety as possible, to get him decent coaching, and to be sure he's playing because he wants to, not because he's pressured to by the people around him, including his mom! And if he chooses to specialize down the road, then I'll support his choice and let him take it from there.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Lindsay said...

SportsProf -

My name is Lindsay and I'm an Associate Producer at ESPN. I am currently in the middle of working a story about parents who redshirt their kids for athletic reasons. I'm interested in speaking with you about your thoughts on the subject. Please reach out to me at so that we can discuss the topic. I look forward to hearing from you.


2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another set of parents being helped by this years old post, and here it is March 2011! Our Nov. baby started school at age 4.His pre-school urged us to send him to kindergarten "since they couldnt teach him anything else". Little did we know. He is a very good student, although not gifted has maintained an A average since kindergarten. Was in one school from grade K-7 when we relocated to a nearby district and enrolled him in 8th grade into another school. Socially, he did well until about half way through 6th grade, where the boys in his class were 6 months to 18 months older than our son. Now, more than half way thru 8th grade we are seeing his social struggle even more. He is an only child, perhaps a little over protected, but he does not seem to fit in with this peer group. Some of the boys are shaving already, and there is on boy with his learners permit. My son is only 13 and will be going to high school at 13. As for sports, he is mainly a baseball player but has played soccer, basketball and dabbled in school football. His size is tallish for a 13 year old, but small for his grade. His main focus is baseball having played in town leagues sine 4 and also in travel for the past 4 years. We didnt even know retaining an honor student was a possibility, we kept thinking the district would think we were crazy. We regret so much putting him into kindergarten at 4 and then to compound that, not even attempting to retain him in 7th grade. Since he switched schools at the end of 7th it would not have hurt is "credibility" so to speak. Now we are left with the heartbreaking decision to have him repeat 8th grade. And where? In this small town where everyone "would know"? I am not sure if his confidence could take the teasing, although he agrees he is out of his league socially. In fact, he asked us the other day about repeating 8th. Homeschool for a year, then send him to the district high school? Or to a private high school where they wouldnt know? His fear is that the other kids will think he is not up to par academically. We have told him the honor roll is printed in the paper, and he is in the Junior National Honor Society so the kids will know he is a good student. Any thoughts would be appreciated on this subject. We would be lying if we said sports was not a factor here, but primarily it is his ability to fit in socially that is at issue.

5:09 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...


You raise very valid issues. Fitting in socially is important, as it affects a boy's confidence, ability to relate with peers and a whole host of skills that will come in handy later in life. It's great to be a good student, but fitting in socially (even if not athletically) is important.

I think what you have to ask yourself is the benefits your son will gain from repeating a grade versus the potential harm it might do. If the benefits clearly outweigh the burdens, then your answer is easy. If it's not clear, and it doesn't seem that it's clear, then it's a hard call.

It might be a good idea to invest a small amount of money into an educational consultant who counsels people on these issues. You can find them in a number of ways, including a recommendation from your pediatrician, a reference from your city's children's hospital or through your employee assistance program at work (if your employer has one). The key thing is to seek out and obtain the appropriate advice for you and your child.

Sounds like you're doing a good job with him and for him. Do your homework, think about it, pray over it, and you'll come to the right decision.

Good luck!

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now it is 2013! I have googled and searched redshirting/retaining for about 2 years now. I'm trying to fiqure out if I want my son to repeat kindergarten. He is a May birthday, he went to a private kindergareten and now will either go to first of kinder at our Texas public elementary. The trend is to hold summer boys back, but May is iffy.
He is average to high average intelligence, but small (15% pecentile height- he will most likely only achieve normal height as he matures- both my husband and his grandfathers are average), are last name is peculiar and
I worry about him getting bullied. His gross motor skills are lacking and he has an eye condition which impedes his eye hand coordination.
I'm so confused on what to do.
I basically have to choose between oldest in class which has its own set of problems and the youngest in class- which we all know has problems.
I do worry that in the long run he will think we did not think he was good enough and thats why we held him back, also worry he will pissed when he fiqures out that he could have been done with bs highschool crap a year ago!
Bottom line if I hold him back I wouldn't be doing it for sports reasons but for him to not get his ass kicked in school because he is the youngest/littlest.
I also feel like they expect alot in school these days. First grade is more like second and so and so on.
Concerned that he will be bored if he repeats, bored up until 3rd when it does become challenging.

9:12 AM  
Anonymous Confused in 2015 said...

Hi, it's June 2015 and we are making the difficult decision to retain our son in 6th grade. We recently moved to a new neighborhood and need to decide whether to re-enroll him in the 6th grade at the elementary school in our new neighborhood or in 7th grade at the local middle school. My gut tells me that do 6th grade again is the right decision for the following reasons:
1) he is young & has a late birthday.
2) he is painfully shy and repeating 6th grade will allow him to make friends before transitioning to middle school.
3) he is quirky, a little awkward and uncoordinated. Another year to socially & physically develop will hopefully help him "fit in"
4) he is struggling with the new "common core" standards. Repeating the standards will help him improve his math, reading & writing and give him more confidence
5) he will be at a new school so nobody will know he was retained
6) I spoke with my son & husband and they are both on board

I have looked everywhere for information and it is difficult to find info from people who have done this with their children. I have 1 friend who did this and he is happy with his decision. Please let me know what your experiences have been.

Thank you!!!

1:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My situation is I have an older child September birthday turning fifteen this September. He is okay academically (average, mostly Bs) and already large at 5 foot 11 190 pounds . He came and ASKED to repeat but I'm reluctant. He says he will be able to catch up and excel academically and in sports. What do you all think? He's asking and says 90 percent sure he wants to repeat

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its completely stupid. There is factual evidence where being held back does help in short term, but long term they are affected. They make less of a salary, and those physical advantages can only last short term. Jimmy Clausen now is a free agent, because guess what? Athletes who were younger than him beat him out through their work ethic and smarts. Please do not fall for this misleading information. It's better to have a student skip a grade(IF THEY ARE ABLE TO). Holding back for a legit reason is understandable, however to say it makes them a leader is false.

6:36 AM  
Blogger Frederick Guyton said...

there are a lot of books, magazines, articles about how to grow up a child! post has some info about summer camps and describes all the pros and cons of them!

3:03 AM  

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