Saturday, December 10, 2005

Sports Mom from Hell

What is it about athletically-gifted children that causes their parents to lose all common sense and humility? Is it because the parent believes the child's athletic talent somehow bestows "greatness" upon the parent? Or is it because the parent is blinded by visions of college scholarships and big-money professional contracts?

Whatever the reasons may be, there certainly are far too many such parents to go around. Take, for example, the mother of University of Florida freshman quarterback Josh Portis. She seems to epitomize how such meddling parents can really screw things up for their kids.

Patricia Portis, mother of true freshman Florida quarterback Josh Portis, confirmed Friday night that her son told Coach Urban Meyer he planned to leave the football program after the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2.

"He's leaving," she said. "He wanted to be around for the bowl game because if something happened, he's the backup quarterback, and the team would need him.''

Well that's nice that he's going to stick around for the bowl game, seeing as he is the backup QB for the Gators. Of course, why didn't he wait until AFTER the bowl game to announce his decision? Well, as it turns out, Portis said he hasn't made up his mind about transferring and will wait until after the bowl game to announce his intent. I guess his mom didn't get that message.

So, while Portis' mom is convinced that he's leaving, Portis didn't express much displeasure with his situation when interviewed just last week.

The announcement came as a surprise, especially after Portis, despite playing little as the Gators' No. 2 quarterback in 2005, seemed pleased with this year and optimistic about the next.

"I feel like I've gotten better every week [in practice]," Josh Portis said in a post-practice interview on Dec. 1. "I learned a lot this year. The coaches are great, and everything is good for me.''

Does that sound like the comments of someone who is unhappy and wants to transfer to another school? Not really.

But there's more. Apparently, Portis transferred schools before while he was in high school in Southern California. And it appears that his mother was the guiding force in the moves.

Changing schools, particularly with his mother as a prominent player in the choice, is nothing new for Portis. When he chooses a new school, it will be his fifth since April 2003, when he left Redondo Union High for California football power Long Beach Poly.

Les Congelliere, athletic director at Redondo, said he remembered the circumstances behind Portis' departure well. After starting and starring on the junior varsity as a sophomore in 2002, Portis figured to compete with two senior quarterbacks for the No. 1 quarterback spot for the 2003 season.
But Patricia Portis, Congelliere said, expected Josh to be chosen the starter before the season, particularly after he recorded the highest vertical jump at a Southern California combine for college prospects.

"His mom thought he should be given a free walk," Congelliere said. "That's not going to happen.
"I liked the woman a lot, but she had a skewed view that her kid was never being praised enough."

The scene repeated at Poly after the Portises learned the school had groomed a quarterback to take the starting job. Portis never played a game there before transferring to Taft High in Woodland Hills, Calif., where he played well enough as the starter in 2003-04 to earn scholarship offers from Meyer at both Utah and Florida.

When Urban Meyer chose to leave his post as head coach at the University of Utah last December to become the new head coach at Florida, Portis changed his college choice from Utah to Florida in order to follow Meyer. And after winning the backup QB job as a true freshman behind talented incumbent starter Chris Leak, Portis saw limited playing time (rushing 29 times for 163 yards and completing 6 of 11 passes for 81 yards and one interception). Still, most true freshmen football players typically see limited playing time, and many are redshirted, so they don't play at all. Portis was in line to succeed Leak as the starter by his junior year.

Don't tell that to Mama Portis. Apparently, she has other ideas.

But throughout his high-school and college careers, two sources close to the Portis family said, Patricia's influence dominated Josh's decisions. "With that woman, you have no idea," the friend said. "You just have no idea."


When Josh enrolled at UF, Patricia Portis, who earlier this season identified her occupation as an independent marketing consultant, moved to Gainesville (from California) to be near him. She visited at least one practice per week and was a regular around the Springs Athletic Complex, where Portis lived.

Asked Friday night what role she played in the transfer decision, and whether this one was similar to those in high schools, Patricia Portis said she wanted to end the conversation and hung up the phone.

So, it looks like Josh Portis, an extremely gifted young athlete who, in all likelihood, would have become the Gators' starting QB by 2007, will be off to greener pastures in search of a school that adequately appreciates his vast talent. Of course, if he transfers to another Division 1-A school, he will have to sit out a year under NCAA transfer rules. So he can stay at Florida and start in a year, or he can leave Florida and possibly start somewhere a year. Is that really any better?

So far, the only person talking about Portis' future plans is Mrs. Portis. Josh has been quiet and the Florida coaching staff has refused comment. While we'd all like to believe that mother knows best, I'm not so sure that she does in this case. She may want to believe that she should be making all the decisions about her son's future, but maybe it's time for the son to rise and make some decisions for himself. After all, it's his future...isn't it?


At 7:54 AM, Blogger susan said...

I am amazed that her son puts up with it. Either of my sons would protest BIG TIME if I were do be so stoopid!


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