SCOTT BAKER’S WALKIN’ THE SIDELINES: It Takes a Village to Create a Winner

Winning is a very difficult thing to do. Everyone is attempting to do it.

At least they say they are.

However, perhaps some programs, schools or communities really don’t care whether or not they win. Rather, they are simply content with having programs.

Therefore, those who are successful are the ones that do it the best. The ones who do it the best are the ones that have a support system in place that gives them the best chances possible to win. They do it as a team.

We often have heard the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Successful athletic programs are no different. They require the support of the village to be successful. When things go right, everyone wants to credit the players. Sometimes they will even say the coaches are doing a good job.

Conversely when things are not going well, the coach is likely the first to take blame. I would contend that in many, but not all cases, that blame is misguided.

True, some coaches can’t coach. That’s a fact that I won’t attempt to refute. Signs beyond wins and loses will be clear. When it becomes evident that is the case, the coach should be replaced.

That however, does not represent the vast majority of coaches who put everything they have into the players, teams, schools and sports that they love. Many sacrifice beyond notice and comprehension to find success. I strongly believe that coaches sometimes take too much credit when their teams win and too much blame when their teams lose.

Why?

Because I firmly feel that it takes the village for a scholastic sports team or program to be successful. What wins in sports?

Athletes.

You have athletes and you have a good chance of being successful. You lack athletes and your chances of success become much slimmer. The problem in all of this is how does a high school athletic program get athletes?

You can’t legally recruit them. That is were the village comes in. You see, while the high school coach will be seen as being responsible for a program’s success or failure, there are so many other factors that must be considered. What is overlooked is the important role that so many others play. Often overlooked is the role played by the athletic director.

Does that person who is charged with overseeing the entire athletics program of a school provide the support necessary to coaches, players and teams that is critical to their success?

Do they establish a philosophy for the school’s entire athletics program that is conducive to success?

Does that philosophy make sense for the school and community in which the school is located?

Is that person someone who truly cares about the success of the schools athletes and programs, or just a person scheduling events?

Does that person in general make the job of the coach easier in terms of administrative type responsibilities?

It is true that some schools combine the role of AD with other responsibilities and the person has little knowledge or concern for the sports programs. Only when the AD cares as much about the success of his or her teams as the coaches and players do, will the school’s programs and athletes ultimately be successful.

Think about it.

Good professional teams typically have general managers that work very closely with the coaches to ensure success in competition. If that doesn’t happen, often it is the general manager that goes and the coach stays.

What about the role of school administration?

Have they fostered an environment where extra-curricular activities are supported and encouraged?

Do they provide coaches with the needed supports to develop successful programs?

Again, think about it, does the owner of a professional sports franchise foster an environment where winning is important?

When they do, teams are typically successful, but when they don’t, well, you know.

What about the role of the purse holders, the school boards. have they properly funded the programs?

Increasingly this is becoming a more difficult issue for school boards to take care of. Budget dollars are fewer and with academics being the priority, athletics often takes the fall.

Overall, have the school authorities provided the coaches and athletes with what is necessary to give their teams a fighting chance against the competition?

What about the local media?

Do they cover local athletes and sports teams in a manner that allows student-athletes and teams to develop a sense of pride knowing that their efforts will be publically recognized?

When people read the paper or listen to the radio, they want to see or hear positive messages being delivered in regards to their local athletes and teams.

Finally, what about the community?

Does the community have a thirst for athletics?

Most communities will likely contend that they do.

But how much of a thirst is it?

Certainly one of the best ways for communities to support their teams is through attendance at games. However, there are other important things that communities must contribute in order for their high school programs to win. A big issue to consider is the communities’ youth programs. Most communities have youth programs, but do those programs serve to enhance the high school programs?

That is a significant issue to consider. Do those programs serve to develop fundamental skills that will lead to success at the upper levels?

Is there a philosophy in place for those youth programs that will foster good programs at the upper levels?

There is so much that goes into success. It is not always the coach that makes the difference, but rather the combined efforts of all stakeholders that does. When considering the reasons for the success or failure of a single program, or the entire athletics program of a school, it is imperative that all applicable factors be considered.

My take?

When one or two programs at a school are unsuccessful while the others thrive, it is worthy of looking first at the coach. However, when a school’s programs as a whole struggle, it is necessary to look beyond the coach and consider the numerous other contributing factors in the matter.

Now in all of this, please understand that I’m not passing judgement on any particular individual, school, program or team. Rather, I stress that just as with professional sports, sometimes it is imperative to look beyond the coach to the general manager or even owner to figure out what fails the franchise. Just as with any team, if the players are not on the same page, the team will likely fail.

Likewise, if all stakeholders in a school environment are not on the same page, their teams and overall athletics program are likely to suffer as well.

Particular to our local community, I do ask though, do we have a thirst for and desire to have solid sports programs?

If so, all stakeholders must do a thorough assessment of their roles and determine if they are doing their parts individually, as well as collectively to ensure success.

If they are not, then it’s time that we quench the thirst that we contend to have. As the popular line from the movie High School Musical sings, “we’re all in this together.”

It is fine to consider a coach the captain of the ship, but in order for the ship to sail successfully and for very long, the entire crew better be on board with each one doing their job to make the ship follow the desired path. I’m quite sure as a community we don’t desire to be shipwrecked.

Therefore, for the good of all of our teams and athletes, I pray we will all get on board and do our part to help steer our teams in the right direction.

If we do, what a cruise it can be.

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