Chip Shots: Middle Schoolers Must Clear The Redshirt Hurdle

June 29, 2024 at 8:00 a.m.


Let’s talk about football redshirts.
College athletes who are redshirts are not on the table this morning. It’s middle school and high school redshirts who come to mind, instead.
My thoughts are provoked by the fact 70% of kids in the United States will remove themselves from participating in athletics at age 13. It’s unfortunate, in some cases, some of these kids take an early exit.
I think some kids viewing the athletic prowess among their redshirted classmates triggers some discouragement that parents need to assure these younger kids they should not feel. This seems to be more of an issue for male athletes than it is for female athletes because of the difference in the genders’ puberty timelines.
I’ll stick with an area where my parental experience and frame of reference are the most extensive.
My son entered kindergarten as a five-year old with a March birthday. He would eventually play football as a senior with teammates one grade younger who were one or two months older, or as many as two months younger who were eligible to enter kindergarten in 2007, but their parents chose to delay their entry until the following year.
This is fine, and within reason considering most of the parents are the best, well-intentioned evaluators of their child’s socioemotional, physical, and intellectual capabilities at that decision point.
Sometimes the effects of moving at an early age, additionally, between states where kindergarten age cutoffs vary greatly are worthy of considering redshirting your child until the start of the upcoming school year.
Certified early elementary teachers have advised me (in casual conversation) that if Indiana changed its entrance cutoff for kindergartners from August 1 to November 1, teachers statewide would have to make significant curriculum adjustments.
Since my son was in the middle of the pack I had no empathy for his comparative age difference, but I did see where he landed as a twelve-year-old entering Edgewood Middle School and realized he was “one year away” due to his DNA.
He was 5-feet tall, weighing 100 pounds. I weighed 89 pounds and stood 4’10”. We each grew one foot by the time were adults.
I was born in August in Ohio where – if you could pass the entrance tests – as long as you were born in that calendar year and turning five you could enter kindergarten.
Once you turned 19 back then, however, you were immediately ineligible for any high school sport. The state changed it to 20 years these days.
Fast forward to my senior year where our “oldest” senior starter among five seniors, did not turn 18 until February of his final season. The others’ birthdays fell in March, August (2), and October.
Those five cagers are now a retired marketing VP, a well-respected teacher and coach, a vice chairman at Bank of America, a retired HP executive managing investments now, and the founder and still CEO of a data storage company, respectively.
Needless to say – I did not play high school basketball by the way – with those examples I couldn’t whine about my development as a child on the young end of the graduating class.
One more thing. Show me almost any starting five of a public school’s basketball team where all five starters were gainfully employed living impeccable adult lives. These fellas were, and still are, a gem.
I digress… kind of.
My two challenges entering kindergarten were in the socioemotional and physical capabilities. I was driving my mother crazy during the summer before kindergarten, and she was ready to let me fend for myself when it came to those challenges. I was able to read just as I turned four, and I could count to 200 before she would tell me, “shut up already, I think you’ll be O.K.”
I vividly remember trying to use scissors and crying from the frustration, and refusing to participate in flash cards and other drills because I’m told my reason I explained was, “I already knew the answers on all those cards.”
Now I really digress… where I should be?
Its important for middle school athletes to – if they know who the redshirts are – take inventory of them and see the difference in their size, speed, and agility to understand they’ll be looking and moving that way next year. In the meantime, these less mature athletes need to focus on getting better in drills and conditioning in practice, and to be students of the game.
This is a challenging thing for 12- and 13-year-old boys to do without getting bored and exiting their sport(s) of choice.
My son was still a runt in 2014 who was in awe of nothing and the love of contact going for him. Nonetheless, his middle school football coaches even said in a field of at least fifty kids it was their best practice at the time to assemble the biggest, fastest kids and teach them the positions where they fit best.
In his eight-grade season, where Shawna and I reminded him he was getting closer in size to his classmates, and after he committed to practicing harder in midseason, an additional six inches in height and 25 more pounds notwithstanding, he was a starter each week in the defensive backfield.
I reminded him, since grade-level cut-offs were August 1 each year, at least half the kids were likely to be farther along in puberty than he was. I told him, “middle school football is like a waiting room for smaller kids who’ll eventually hit normal height and weight.”
He landed where he belonged by his senior year.
Encourage your middle school athletes to practice hard, and to watch what is going on because when you look left and look right among four or five teammates – particularly in middle school football – only one of you will still be in gear on Senior Night.
If you’re not the biggest fastest kid, again, look at the bigger kids who happen to be older than you are. These kids are your window into your physique next year. The choice to stay is yours.
The Tiger football program’s current “practice product offering” also provides an engaging environment from start to finish even at the non-scholastic affiliated youth football and middle school levels because practice reps (in addition to opening drills and closing drills) keep everyone busy, and everyone has a collective ear to the ground because the “twos” and the “threes” are coached the same way the “ones” are coached.
There are annual awards earned among the team’s hardest working practice role players.
You can see, in the 2022 Warsaw-Northridge football game and the last half of the 2022 season for that matter, how well this paid off when “next man up” affected at least three or four positions on each side of the ball.
If you’ve ever seen a Tiger football practice, a player with roles on both sides of the ball can be summoned at anytime to move to another position group followed by a brief pause and the words bellowed from the diaphragm, “Why aren’t you there yet?”
Basketball’s numbers are smaller, but still require a middle school athlete to pay close attention when the “ones” are getting reps. Tiger hoopsters are creative in their use of practice time as well, serving as scout teams, and even assisting the girls’ squad with a scout look.
Middle school athletes shouldn’t be discouraged by redshirts’ comparatively greater abilities. These older kids had no say in their kindergarten entry decision point. Instead, the “future selves” they see should encourage if they work hard to complement their eventual physical development.

Let’s talk about football redshirts.
College athletes who are redshirts are not on the table this morning. It’s middle school and high school redshirts who come to mind, instead.
My thoughts are provoked by the fact 70% of kids in the United States will remove themselves from participating in athletics at age 13. It’s unfortunate, in some cases, some of these kids take an early exit.
I think some kids viewing the athletic prowess among their redshirted classmates triggers some discouragement that parents need to assure these younger kids they should not feel. This seems to be more of an issue for male athletes than it is for female athletes because of the difference in the genders’ puberty timelines.
I’ll stick with an area where my parental experience and frame of reference are the most extensive.
My son entered kindergarten as a five-year old with a March birthday. He would eventually play football as a senior with teammates one grade younger who were one or two months older, or as many as two months younger who were eligible to enter kindergarten in 2007, but their parents chose to delay their entry until the following year.
This is fine, and within reason considering most of the parents are the best, well-intentioned evaluators of their child’s socioemotional, physical, and intellectual capabilities at that decision point.
Sometimes the effects of moving at an early age, additionally, between states where kindergarten age cutoffs vary greatly are worthy of considering redshirting your child until the start of the upcoming school year.
Certified early elementary teachers have advised me (in casual conversation) that if Indiana changed its entrance cutoff for kindergartners from August 1 to November 1, teachers statewide would have to make significant curriculum adjustments.
Since my son was in the middle of the pack I had no empathy for his comparative age difference, but I did see where he landed as a twelve-year-old entering Edgewood Middle School and realized he was “one year away” due to his DNA.
He was 5-feet tall, weighing 100 pounds. I weighed 89 pounds and stood 4’10”. We each grew one foot by the time were adults.
I was born in August in Ohio where – if you could pass the entrance tests – as long as you were born in that calendar year and turning five you could enter kindergarten.
Once you turned 19 back then, however, you were immediately ineligible for any high school sport. The state changed it to 20 years these days.
Fast forward to my senior year where our “oldest” senior starter among five seniors, did not turn 18 until February of his final season. The others’ birthdays fell in March, August (2), and October.
Those five cagers are now a retired marketing VP, a well-respected teacher and coach, a vice chairman at Bank of America, a retired HP executive managing investments now, and the founder and still CEO of a data storage company, respectively.
Needless to say – I did not play high school basketball by the way – with those examples I couldn’t whine about my development as a child on the young end of the graduating class.
One more thing. Show me almost any starting five of a public school’s basketball team where all five starters were gainfully employed living impeccable adult lives. These fellas were, and still are, a gem.
I digress… kind of.
My two challenges entering kindergarten were in the socioemotional and physical capabilities. I was driving my mother crazy during the summer before kindergarten, and she was ready to let me fend for myself when it came to those challenges. I was able to read just as I turned four, and I could count to 200 before she would tell me, “shut up already, I think you’ll be O.K.”
I vividly remember trying to use scissors and crying from the frustration, and refusing to participate in flash cards and other drills because I’m told my reason I explained was, “I already knew the answers on all those cards.”
Now I really digress… where I should be?
Its important for middle school athletes to – if they know who the redshirts are – take inventory of them and see the difference in their size, speed, and agility to understand they’ll be looking and moving that way next year. In the meantime, these less mature athletes need to focus on getting better in drills and conditioning in practice, and to be students of the game.
This is a challenging thing for 12- and 13-year-old boys to do without getting bored and exiting their sport(s) of choice.
My son was still a runt in 2014 who was in awe of nothing and the love of contact going for him. Nonetheless, his middle school football coaches even said in a field of at least fifty kids it was their best practice at the time to assemble the biggest, fastest kids and teach them the positions where they fit best.
In his eight-grade season, where Shawna and I reminded him he was getting closer in size to his classmates, and after he committed to practicing harder in midseason, an additional six inches in height and 25 more pounds notwithstanding, he was a starter each week in the defensive backfield.
I reminded him, since grade-level cut-offs were August 1 each year, at least half the kids were likely to be farther along in puberty than he was. I told him, “middle school football is like a waiting room for smaller kids who’ll eventually hit normal height and weight.”
He landed where he belonged by his senior year.
Encourage your middle school athletes to practice hard, and to watch what is going on because when you look left and look right among four or five teammates – particularly in middle school football – only one of you will still be in gear on Senior Night.
If you’re not the biggest fastest kid, again, look at the bigger kids who happen to be older than you are. These kids are your window into your physique next year. The choice to stay is yours.
The Tiger football program’s current “practice product offering” also provides an engaging environment from start to finish even at the non-scholastic affiliated youth football and middle school levels because practice reps (in addition to opening drills and closing drills) keep everyone busy, and everyone has a collective ear to the ground because the “twos” and the “threes” are coached the same way the “ones” are coached.
There are annual awards earned among the team’s hardest working practice role players.
You can see, in the 2022 Warsaw-Northridge football game and the last half of the 2022 season for that matter, how well this paid off when “next man up” affected at least three or four positions on each side of the ball.
If you’ve ever seen a Tiger football practice, a player with roles on both sides of the ball can be summoned at anytime to move to another position group followed by a brief pause and the words bellowed from the diaphragm, “Why aren’t you there yet?”
Basketball’s numbers are smaller, but still require a middle school athlete to pay close attention when the “ones” are getting reps. Tiger hoopsters are creative in their use of practice time as well, serving as scout teams, and even assisting the girls’ squad with a scout look.
Middle school athletes shouldn’t be discouraged by redshirts’ comparatively greater abilities. These older kids had no say in their kindergarten entry decision point. Instead, the “future selves” they see should encourage if they work hard to complement their eventual physical development.

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