I have not coached youth athletics in a dozen years. I actually enjoyed coaching and seeing players evolve and improve over the course of a season. It was fun watching those six year olds in tee-ball who started the summer scared of the ball, and by the end of the season, they could play catch, hit, generally knew what to do. I enjoyed watching 15 year old ball players who struggled with turning the double play able to turn it perfectly. Working with a basketball player on using his or her off-hand to dribble or make layup, and then seeing it happen during a game is terrific.
I enjoyed coaching kids.
Unfortunately, along with coaching baseball and coaching kids comes dealing with parents. Before this becomes one of those kinds of articles, I have to say that 95% of the parents I dealt with were great. Unfortunately, it is the bad apples that have soured the idea of coaching for so many!
My parents were at almost all of my extra curricular activities. They would sit and enjoy the game and clap when appropriate. The mother of one of my best friends would go absolutely crazy every time her son hit a free throw or scored a basket. I just assumed that is how all parents behaved.
When I finished my high school playing days, I would come back to watch my siblings' games, as they had watched me. Sitting in the stands gave me an entirely different perspective. I could not believe the things that I heard coming out of the mouths of adults, of a few parents. Geez, if you listened to a few of the people in the stands, the football coaches couldn't put their teams in the right formations, call the right plays, or most importantly, have the right players in the game. The volleyball coach 'favored' certain players over others. The basketball coaches played some players too much as well as didn't switch up the defenses often enough. The softball coaches called for bunts too often. The baseball coach didn't make his cleanup hitter bunt with runners on first and second in the 4th inning. Oh, and once in awhile they would get upset at a player for doing something wrong!
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I couldn't believe that these things were being said, but even more, I couldn't believe the extreme anger behind how they were said. Those experiences really opened my eyes. I noticed every comment after that. I have heard so many things that are just crazy. I have heard of parent groups organizing in an attempt to get rid of coaches if their team did not win a state championship. We read all too often stories about dads coming onto the field and beating up coaches, or worse. I'm sure you have all heard that some parent's kids aren't playing "because of politics." Right!
The last team I coached was a summer league, 13 year old Babe Ruth team in Perham. I was the only coach. There were 27 thirteen year olds on the roster (I know, 13 years old is such a fun age, right?). If you can believe this, there were a couple of times when, during a seven inning game, I was able to get all 27 kids playing time. Of course, no one is happy with that. The good players don't play enough, and then the backups are just getting an occasional at bat, or being asked to pinch run or go play defense. No one is happy. After six weeks of season, I had to set a playoff roster. The playoff roster was limited to 13 players. Making the cuts weren't that difficult. There were probably 15 players to consider having on the list. Those choices had to be made, so I made them. And I got three or four phone calls from parents asking me why their kid didn't make the roster. Their son had "been there all season, and should be on the playoff roster." What could I say? I had to make choices, and a lot of players were there all year.
That season was stressful. It wasn't just the roster situation; I heard a lot of comments from the bleachers. For the amount of money that summer coaches make, the decision to quit coaching was easy. (In many communities, summer coaches are strictly volunteer!)
We hear so often that kids don't listen any more. Some believe that that many of the kids feel they are entitled to certain things, like playing time and glory. The young kids are being given a bad name for being immature, and volatile and generally disrespectful.
Of course, that isn't a fair generalization in the first place as I believe most kids are truly good, respectful kids. But for those who do have an air of entitlement, who have poor attitudes and are disrespectful, maybe we know why. Where do they get those attributes from? Who do they see or hear being disrespectful?
Charles Barkley was right all along. Parents should be role models. Parents should be respectful to those in authority, like teachers and coaches. What happened to that? I know my parents were tremendous role models to me and my siblings. As the father of a two year old, I can only hope I am half the role model that my parents were to me.
The Minnesota High School State Hockey Tournament began today in St. Paul. Winter sports are drawing to a close. Spring sports will be starting as early as next week in Minnesota. If you have a child who has participated in a sport (or any extracurricular activity), be sure to say "Thank You" to their coaches. Open up a positive line of communication with the spring coaches. The reality is that 99% of coaches are truly trying to do the right things; they're working hard, they're teaching, they're planning, and they are doing it for pennies per hour. Just say thank you!
And you know what, thank their teachers too!
I'd love to hear your comments on this topic!