Scott Baker’s Walkin’ the Sidelines: Judgment on coaches

NOTE: This column is not written in reference to any decision by Keystone Central School District. Rather, it is written as a result of things I’ve seen and heard in regards to coaches at the high school level in general. Some of which I have known personally.

The vast majority of high school coaches put an inordinate amount of time into their sport. They sacrifice much to see that their athletes and the programs that they oversee are successful. With that in mind, I’ve become increasingly troubled by the number of high school coaches who’ve found their coaching positions opened.

They have been released or have been told to reapply for the job. The reality is someone is not happy with his or her performance.

In a good number of the cases, the reasoning for the action of opening up the position is based on the fact that a parent or group of parents complained about that coach. Now before I go any further, I will state emphatically like I’ve done on numerous occasions before in this column that some coaches are deserving of being replaced. Some who attempt to wear the title of coach simply have no clue how to coach. In those cases, they deserve to be removed from their position.

The determination for these types of removals should be done by school administration who determine by both formal and informal evaluations that the coach needs to go.

After all, what is the role of athletic and school administration anyway? Are these people not being paid to make decisions relative to the athletics program? If they are not, then I must ask, what are they being paid for?

Sadly, what is becoming all too common is the removal of coaches for the wrong reasons. Now to be sure here, I’m referring to high school coaches as college and professional coaches are hired with one of their sole objectives being to win.

First, we see high school coaches being removed because of wins and losses. In my mind, that is one tool for measurement, but it should be far down the list in terms of being a deciding factor in whether or not a coach is retained or replaced.

High school coaches can’t legally recruit and are forced to work with what they have. Some of those people who have very little are doing a great job.

Perhaps they are not winning in terms of what the scoreboard reads, but they are creating the best possible product with what they have. Look, if you don’t have athletes, you’re not going to win.

Another reason that coaches are being removed from their positions is due to parent complaints. This reason is very troubling.

Believe it or not, I feel that parents have the right to pass judgment on a coach and program. However, administration must be very careful in determining the reasoning for parental complaints.

Like it or not, one of the leading reasons that parents complain about a coach is their child’s lack of playing time. Well, OK in most cases, it’s definitely the main reason for their complaints. A particular kids lack of playing time should never be a factor in determining whether or not a coach is retained or replaced.

Sadly though, a growing number of parents have learned how to play this increasingly popular game. The game is played something like this: their kid doesn’t play, they make up some kind of story about the coach and his treatment of kids or whatever and they complain to school authorities. The school authorities cave to the parents and the coach is either removed from their position or they see it opened and are told that they can reapply.

More and more, this is happening to coaches who have been by most people’s definition successful. Some would even be considered by many to be highly successful based on numerous metrics. However, a parent or two gets upset their kid didn’t play and then it’s thanks for your service coach, but see you later. Or at least beg for your job.

This is a sad state of affairs in the society in which we now live. Don’t get what you want, make up a story to blame someone and get your revenge.

What bothers me most is that I see coaches who are a class act being let go. Coaches who are successful, liked and respected by the vast majority of their players, respected by rival coaches and who have built quality high school programs are all being let go. Or at least being expected to beg for their jobs.

One thing that I feel many of these coaches have in common is that they are old school. Old school is not selling well these days. However, it is exactly what kids today need more than ever. Old-school coaches are demanding, sometimes loud, correct, discipline and demand respect.

Old-school coaches believe that respect is earned and it works both ways, expect players to be on time, work hard and put the team first. Again, I must sadly report that I’m witnessing so much that tells me that old school coaches are no longer in vogue.

This all leads me to wonder where we are headed as a society? A society that finds it no longer acceptable to demand, discipline or for a coach to tell a kid that they’re not yet good enough or they need to work harder.

A society that has become unbelievably soft.

If a coach is demeaning players, physically or mentally abusing players and/or teaching lessons and techniques that are wrong, they should be removed. In fact, they must be removed, immediately.

However, if they are being removed based on a parent’s complaint that really has its basis in lack of playing time or somebody getting their fragile feelings hurt, school officials must support the coach.

Unless this happens, things will continue to get worse and good coaches will make wise decisions to step away from their games. As a society, we will be left with people that have no clue holding coaching positions and leading our kids. Where will we be then?

I shudder to think what that will look like.

However, if you think this issue doesn’t exist, look at the number of high school level coaching positions that go unfilled for periods of time or those that have only an applicant or two to choose from.

For that matter, ask any member or coach in a youth organization how difficult it is for them to find coaches and they will tell you. Perhaps it’s time that we get back to respecting coaches for the work that they do.

Maybe even trust that they know what they are doing and let them do their job. Perhaps we would once again get consistently from sports what we want and need: discipline, hard work, dedication and respectful players that become the leaders of a society in need of those very traits.

At the same time, what will be created along the way is a generation of players that understand that when something doesn’t go the way they want or hope, crying about it isn’t the proper method of action. Working harder and/or smarter just might be.

As adults, it’s time we get back to teaching old-school lessons before it is too late for our sports and our society. The old-school philosophy does not have to be old. It can still sell.

We as a society just need to be willing to buy.


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