Dear Coach: My 10-year-old son idolizes Roger Clemens, and he's very confused about the whole Mike Piazza-broken bat incident. Should I tell him Clemens is still a good role model, and if so, how do I explain that even legends make mistakes?
Dear Crashing: "Your son is feeling disillusioned, maybe even betrayed," says sports psychologist Frank Smoll. "He's put Clemens on a pedestal, and he feels hurt and embarrassed for him." But you can spin the Rocket's little lapse to the good. Teach the importance of taking responsibility for your actions and of self-control by explaining that that's how Clemens slipped up. Then return to the Rocket's positive points. "His persistence and work ethic are highly valued attributes," says Smoll. "He's still a tremendous role model."
Dear Coach: I ref in a hoops league for eight-year-olds, and I'm uncertain how strict I should be. If I call every infraction, I'll take the fun out of playing. What do I do?
Dear Blower: Let's just say you shouldn't be calling any illegal defenses. "Show leniency" says Richard Stratton, associate professor of health and physical education at Virginia Tech. "Obviously, don't let a kid take off down the court like a running back, but allow an extra step here or there." Since parents can be sticklers for consistency, outline your philosophy for them. Remember that your role isn't just to whistle fouls; it's also to teach. "Have kids explain calls back to you," says Stratton. "Then you'll know they get it, and it'll cut down on the number of violations in the future."