Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Let the coaches coach

High school and college football season is upon us, and as everyone who reads my work is aware, I truly love all sports-and yet I have always felt that there was something special about football time.

I have always been more than just a fan of sports, especially baseball and football. Nicole will be the first to tell you that I am what she calls obsessed. I watch games whenever I can, I think over plays and strategies in my head, I second-guess the coach, and I scream at the television-in my case with a hollered explanation of what should have been done.

For all of that, however, I've been around sports for years and have developed a healthy respect and admiration for the job that a coach has. Coaches of every sport have years of experience as players, assistants, and as head coaches. If you dig a little deeper you will often find that coaches have been involved in nearly every conceivable athletic or academic situation during the course of their career-you name it, and the coach has probably seen it.

I found the Prep Xtra story about parents who put pressure on coaches over playing time to be especially disturbing. I realize that most parents think their son is special and deserves more playing time than he might often get. A good coach is interested in only one thing: A winning program. In this regard, the coach is a third party whose job it is to find the best talent and put that talent in prominent positions on the team.

Parents used to understand that the coach was a professional who was determined to win-his job depended on it. As a consequence, the coach led a team whose primary motivation was victory. Now, parents are trying to tell the coach how to do his job in many cases. While not a new phenomenon, there was a time in the not-too-distant past when parental attempts to derail a coach's program would simply not be tolerated. Now, nosy parents who often know little about a coach's plan for a team (they often don't ask, they just think that whatever it is, Johnny needs to play more so he can get a football scholarship) are costing coaches their jobs instead of on-field performance of the team being the deciding factor.

Instead of being the professional molder of a young man's (or woman's) sporting future, the coach is now seen by entirely too many parents as that stupid idiot who doesn't know what he is doing because their kid can't play, or because they don't get their way.

I do not subscribe to the school of thought that says that a coach is God. There are some bad (downright rotten in every way) coaches out there, and I have certainly seen my share. In fact, over my years as a radio commentator-beginning with my days in high school covering sports for the school paper-I developed a reputation as "the coach firer" because it was said by some people inside athletic departments that I was "into firing coaches." I am certainly into getting rid of bad coaches, but I am old school. Just because things are not done the way that I (or anyone else) likes them does not mean they aren't being done right, and I am a firm believer that you have to give a coach the benefit of the doubt unless his way is proven wrong.

I would probably know very little about sports were it not for the fact that I've had occasion to meet a few coaches over the years who taught me something about the games they coached. Because of these wonderful educators I developed not only a lifelong love of sports, but a deep appreciation for the intricacies of certain sports as well as a respect for what it means to be a coach.

As we near the start of another football season, it would do us well to remember the men in the headsets and the ballcaps on the sidelines. They have the hardest job on the field, because not only to they have to pray that their offenses and defenses work, their games are won, and that their players behave, but now they must be concerned about parents who think they can do their job for them.

And parents: Unless you are a football coach, let the coach do his job, and you do yours. Be a supportive parent and fan. Support your coach, don't run him down.



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